Iraqi bill sparks fury over child marriage claims

A bill before Iraq’s parliament that opponents say legalizes child marriage and marital rape has sparked controversy ahead of elections as secular activists face off against the draft law’s backers.

The bill, the Jaafari Personal Status Law, sets out rules to do with inheritance, marriage and divorce.

Supporters of the draft, named after a Shiite Muslim school of jurisprudence, say it simply regulates practices already existing in day-to-day life.

Opponents say the bill represents a step back for women’s rights in Iraq, and worry that it could further fray already fragile sectarian ties between the country’s various communities amid heightened violence ahead of April parliamentary polls.

Critics point in particular to a clause of Article 147 in the bill which allows for girls to divorce at the age of nine, meaning they could conceivably marry even earlier, and another article which would require a wife to have sex with her husband whenever he demands.

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