Child Marriage

Culture and religion both play a big part in how our society sees social institutions such as marriage and families.

A recent report of an alleged “child marriage” in NSW involving a 12 year-old girl marrying a 28 year-old man has been the centre of much debate in Australia and it is a reminder that elsewhere in the world, things are very different.

Recently in Iraq, a draft amendment to the current Personal Status Law has passed through the Council of Ministers and is waiting for approval by the Iraqi Parliament.

The draft law named the ‘Jaafari Personal Status Law’ is based on Shiite Islamic religious laws and restricts women’s rights relating to inheritance, marriage and parental rights after divorce.

It has been reported that the draft law includes provisions such as:-

  1. Lowering the marriage age to 9 for girls and 15 for boys;
  2. Prohibits Muslim men from marrying non-Muslim women;
  3. Condones a Husband’s right to insist upon sexual relations with his Wife whenever he wishes regardless of her consent;
  4. Prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their Husbands; and
  5. Automatically grants to the father a right of custody of any child over the age of 2 after a marriage breakdown.

Iraq’s current Personal Status Law sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years and enshrines women’s rights regarding marriage and divorce. That law was previously seen to be the most progressive in the Middle East.

The supporters for the proposed amendments argue the current law violates Sharia religious law. Further, statistics show that there is an increased rate of child marriages in Iraq and therefore, defenders of the proposed amendments say that it would legalise what is already occurring.

Those who strongly oppose the draft amendments argue that it violates a number of United Nations Conventions including:-

  1. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and
  2. The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Both of these Conventions have been signed, ratified and implemented by Iraq.

It has been argued that:-

“The draft Personal Status Law flies in the face of the Iraqi government’s legal commitments to protect women’s and girl’s rights. The passage of this law by Parliament may lead to further discriminatory laws”.

The draft law will now need to be reviewed and passed by Parliament before it can become a binding law. However, it is likely that this will not happen until after national elections which are scheduled for 30 April, 2014. Depending on the outcome of the election, the proposed amendments may or may not pass through the Iraqi Parliament.

For more information on Australian Family Law matters please contact our expert Family Law team at Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.