Children in Iraq could be legally married before the age of nine, under sweeping legislation tabled on Tuesday, that introduces new religious restrictions on women's rights, as reported by Damien McElroy in the Telegraph.
As almost its last act before elections at the end of the month, the Iraqi parliament looks likely to pass new marital rules for its majority Shia community with a draft law criticised by human rights activists as "legalised inequality".
The legislation has been approved by the governing coalition in an effort to attract support from Shia Muslims in the April 30 vote.
Current Iraqi law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval and states girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian's approval.
But the legislation, known as the Jaafari law, introduces rules almost identical to those of neighbouring Iran, a Shia-dominated Islamic theocracy.
Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, warned on Tuesday that approval of the law would lead to the abuse of women. "It allows for girls to be married from nine years of age and even younger".
Hanaa Edwar, a well-known activist and head of the charity Al-Amal ("Hope" in Arabic), has campaigned against the law as a setback for women's rights in a country that has struggled since the 2003 invasion.
Human Rights Watch, the US-based organisation, has issued a plea for the Iraqi government to abandon the legislations.