ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Representatives of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) on Monday urged Iraq to review its proposals for the minimum age of marriage in the country.
In a joint statement, the Special Representatives of the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, and for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, called on the Iraqi government to reconsider the legal provisions governing marriage.
In November, the Parliament of Iraq in Baghdad in principle approved a draft bill which allows girls as young as 9-years-old to be married off.
“The boys and girls of Iraq, already victims of grave violations resulting from years of conflict, are now at risk of being deprived of their childhood,” Gamba stated.
“The government of Iraq must take all necessary actions to protect every child by preventing the adoption of policies that can harm children already exposed to armed conflict,” the Children and Armed Conflict representative added.
According to the representatives, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi assured the UN in September that his government would “prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence” following the horrific acts committed by the Islamic State (IS).
However, in their joint statement, Patten and Gamba noted that the approval in principle of a draft law concerning underage marriage “would represent a significant step back from those commitments.”
“It could also increase divisions at a time when Iraq is recovering from the impact of the conflict with [IS] as well as conflict-related sexual violence,” the joint statement added.
The draft law received criticism from officials in the Kurdistan Region as well as the United States.
On Nov. 10, Fairooza Taha, Deputy Head of the Kurdistan Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, denounced the proposal as “obviously against the internationally-recognized rights of women and children.”
She also explained that it would not be applied in Kurdistan, which has its own government and parliament.
On the same day, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert strongly criticized the Iraqi Parliament’s approval, likening the pending legislation to the practices of IS.
Editing by Sam A.