The Iraqi Parliament is considering the passage of some horrific amendments to the nation's current marriage laws. The amendments, which would change a law from 1959, would allow men to marry children when they are as young as nine years old. As of now, the law has received "preliminary approval."
Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said that though the State Department does not typically comment on legislation in other countries, it is condemning these amendments.
"Often we don't comment on other country's legislation, but we are completely against and oppose the idea of children marrying adults. And let's remember, it was not that long ago that we called out the depravity of ISIS for taking child prisoners, child brides and the sort," Nauert said during a news conference.
Nauert went on to say, "Some of this will be an internal Iraqi matter, but we remain firmly opposed to the idea that any adult would attempt to marry a child in that fashion. A child is a child."
According to Girls Not Brides, an organization that is fighting against child marriage and speaking out for young girls and women, the legal age of consent for marriage in Iraq is 18. However, girls as young as 15 can be married with parental consent. The organization also states, citing data from the UNICEF's "State of the World's Children" report in 2016, that 24 percent of girls were married by age 18 and five percent were married by age 15.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq released the following statement:
In response to the public reaction to the draft law amending the Personal Status Law Number 188 of 1959, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) believes that inclusive and wide consultations over these amendments are necessary to ensure women’s rights are fully respected and protected.
Attaining equality between women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and girls are fundamental human rights and United Nations values.
Women and girls in Iraq have suffered violations of their basic human rights and violence in armed conflict, in particular under the terrorist group Daesh. They aspire that the realization of their rights should be prioritized with a view to achieving equality with men. This requires a comprehensive understanding of legal and judicial remedies that sometimes hinder the realization of this equality. There is also a dire need for legal and institutional strategies to eliminate discrimination against women and girls.