Child marriage could become law in Iraq this week, but it’s a global scourge
My organisation is fighting to secure the right of every child to be at school. It’s the only way to stop this barbaric practice
The Guardian, Tuesday 29 April 2014
When Iraqi voters go to the polls tomorrow they are likely to endorse parties that plan to legalise child marriage at nine years old. Based on Shia Islamic jurisprudence, what is called the Ja’afari personal status law was approved by the current Iraqi cabinet eight weeks ago. It describes girls as reaching puberty at nine, and therefore ready for marriage. The current legal age is 18…….
The facts are that the one secure way to prevent child marriage is to deliver the right of every child to be at school. A girl with some education is not only unlikely to be married at eight, nine or 10, but is also six times less likely to be married by 18.
Child marriage-free zones, where girls get together and refuse to be married, are springing up on the subcontinent – the first in Pakistan, with several now in Bangladesh, and others soon to be set up in countries such as Malawi. We see that girls are no longer prepared to succumb to the fate that others have decided for them, or to wait for others to protect them.
Together with a group of high profile individuals I am proud to be part of the Emergency Coalition for Education Action. The coalition is committed to zero education exclusion, and this means zero child marriage. We are linking up with girls’ rights movements across the developing world, including Nepal’s Common Forum for Kalmal Hari Freedom, the Nilphamari Child Marriage Free Zone in Bangladesh, the Ugandan Child Protection Club, and Indonesia’s Grobogan Child Empowerment Group.
Many are linked to the growing Girls not Brides movement spearheaded by Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands – more than 300 national organisations are already affiliated. They are attempting to stop child marriage by law, to register girls by their correct ages, to enforce existing banning regulations, and to get girls to school.
Children’s rights must be protected across the world, and we call on all countries to put an end to the barbaric practice of child marriage and to ensure all children are in school and learning.