17 April 2014
Dear Members of the Council of Representatives of Iraq
Global March Against Child Labour is a worldwide coalition of trade unions, teachers’ and child rights organisations with members and partners from over 140 countries and a shared commitment of strengthening worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially freedom from economic exploitation and their right to a full-time quality basic education.
We salute your endurance for gradually emerging out of the long devastating crisis. While a new Iraq is in the making with a progressive outlook and traditional values, its foundations must not be laid by compromising on freedom and dignity of girls and women.
I am writing to you to express serious concern and apprehension on the Jaafari Personal Status Law which will be tabled in the Parliament for its approval anytime now. Reducing the marriageable age for girls currently from 18 to 9 years or even younger (with a parent’s approval) is a regressive stand that will have detrimental effect on their physical and psychological well being. Not only would the passage of this law violate the ‘Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women’ and UN ‘Convention on the rights of the child’ that Iraq is signatory to but would also trample girls under the overbearing responsibilities of marriage in their formative years. With early marriage comes the deadly risk of early pregnancy. Studies reveal that death rate for girls giving birth at the age of 15 or younger is five times higher than those over 20.
If the child bride survives, she is most likely to be left without education. Early child marriage is both cause and consequence of girls dropping out of school. Iraq historically has had high literacy rates but it is disheartening to note that over the years illiteracy rates have started climbing up with almost 30 percent of the rural population unable to read or write. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40% of its adults able to read and write. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive pass the age of 5 years. “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation” goes the old adage.
It is with lot of hope that I make an appeal to you for not voting in favour of the sections of the Jaafari Personal Law that will jeopardize the progress of Iraqi girls and women and weaken the foundation of your country.