A demonstration against the draft personal status law. The sign reads: Women are not for sale or purchase.
"A draft law before Iraq's parliament that would legalise the marriage of girls as young as nine and restrict women's rights in matters of parenting, divorce and inheritance is a political move to define the identity of the country's majority Shias before next month's election, officials say. The law, which was approved by Iraq's council of ministers two weeks ago, has generated widespread debate in Iraq six weeks before the first national poll since US forces departed. International human rights groups have described it as a disastrous regression in the status of women...The law was put forward by Iraq's justice minister, who heads the Fadila party, which has seven seats in the national parliament and is allied with the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Its endorsement by the council of ministers was a prerequisite for a vote in the 325-seat assembly. Observers say Iraq's Shia religious authorities are split over how to react to a debate that has roots in Islamic jurisprudence. Known as the Jaafari personal status law, a reference to the Shia imam of that name, the draft law legalises marital rape and gives men a strict guardianship role over their wives. It also gives automatic custody to fathers in divorce cases that involve children of more than two years old. Most controversially, it allows girls to divorce from the age of nine – a clause that means they must first have been married...'He has never said that he is with the law or against it,' said Maliki's spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi. 'What we have done is democratic. We took this to be discussed, then voted on. We didn't object straight away. Some media outlets show Iraq as if it has gone backwards, but this isn't true. In the west, people are talking about gay marriage. This is something we would never discuss and it is against our religion, our nature, yet we don't say that they are backwards.'"