The Iraqi Council of Ministers has just approved the controversial Ja'fari (Shi'ite) Personal Status Law and sent the bill to parliament, even after declaring just days ago that the matter would be decided after the elections. If this reactionary bill is passed, Iraqi men will be able to marry girls as young as nine 'lunar' years (a little under nine calender years), and a married woman won't be able to initiate a divorce unless she can prove under oath (with two witnesses!) that her husband is impotent or cannot achieve an erection. Yep.
There are other goodies in the law such as legitimizing spousal rape, temporary marriage, polygamy; barring married women from leaving the house without permission; reliance on oath alone for proving paternity (no need for any DNA evidence, as it used to be); a husband can deny expenses for his wife if she is unable to satisfy him sexually; a deceased person's will can be decided by next of kin under oath (no written will needed); uprooting civil marriages and alimony for divorced women, etc., but I can't find any version in English. There's absolutely nothing on it from the mainstream media either.
At the legal level, the law is consistent with Article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution, which reads, "Iraqis are free to abide by their personal status according to their religions, sects, beliefs, or choices, as regulated by law."
In terms of content, civil elites consider the proposed law unconstitutional because the Constitution prohibits any law that is inconsistent with Article 2, which stipulates in Paragraph (b), "No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy," and in Paragraph (c), "No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this Constitution." However, the minister of justice is basing his argument on Paragraph (a), which stipulates, "No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam."
That vague and ambiguous article has become a Trojan horse for religious parties to impose their laws. This ambiguity has led to another level of factors, mainly religious factors, which helped the justice minister in his mission.
In principle, no Iraqi cleric can oppose applying provisions that date back to earlier times and which are supported by religious texts. Some of those texts set the marriage age as low as 9 and others relate to the role of women in society whereby a woman is subject to her husband's will and is deprived of all the gains made under the 1959 Personal Status Law, which is considered a civil law par excellence.
The problem facing the Jaafari personal status law is that the normal pattern of laws pertaining to the issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance and women's rights in the world have been evolving toward greater freedom and equality, so why would Iraqi laws head in the opposite direction?
Backward, like a camel's urine, as the old Iraqi proverb says.