11/26/2017, 10.01
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Baghdad rejects the law on child brides. Archbishop Warduni: 'Positive sign'

The Iraqi Parliament rejected a draft bill aimed at lowering the minimum age for marriage. The reform would transfer the state's legal jurisdiction over to the state religious authority. Iraqi Church: Critical voices in the country and abroad prevailed; it is fundamental to defend the principle of secularism.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The Iraqi Parliament's decision is a "positive sign," demonstrating that "not all proposals of religious significance" are "approved", says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.  The right hand man of the Chaldean patriarch, was commenting to AsiaNews on the Assembly's decision to abolish the bill that would legalize child marriages and the phenomenon of child brides. On the contrary, according to the prelate in these weeks "both within and outside Iraq " several "critical" voices have arisen, which have favoured the deputies decision in Parliament.

In recent days, the Iraqi Parliament has in fact rejected a proposal to reform the law on "civil status", which wanted to lower the minimum age for marriage “to nine years ". The amendment would have been applied within the Muslim community, fuelling the phenomenon of "child brides" which is a reality in most Islamic countries - like Turkey – is already condemned by activists and civil society.

According to critical voices, in Iraq and abroad, the new law would have legalized the "rape of children". The amendment was proposed by a group of Shia conservative deputies, who intended to modify a 1959 norm that sets the minimum age for marrying at age 18.

At that time, the legislature had decided to transfer the jurisdiction over family law from the religious authorities to the State and to the judiciary. The reform that has been rejected would have meant a return to the past and would give way to the child marriage in the event of the consent of the religious leader (Sunni or Shiite) of the family’s community of belonging.

Many ethnic groups and confessions protested strongly against the reform denouncing it as an "obvious violation" of women's and girls' rights. Parliament's decision to withdraw the amendment should once again, once and for all, put an end to the danger of changes to the law governing marriages and the legal status of families.

"This proposal - Msgr. Warduni continues  - was unacceptable both civilly and religiously. And the popular uprising that has come up against the amendment to the law" which is the fruit of a fanatic vision of society and of women in particular “is positive”. "It is good - he adds - that proposals like this are rejected because they are harmful to both religion and the state and are not suitable for a country like Iraq, which has an ancient culture and tradition."

For some time, the Iraqi Church has been campaigning for a "secular and united" nation and does not hesitate to criticize the (controversial) Iraqi Constitution, particularly Article 37-2, which does not protect the rights and religious freedom of minorities. In September 2015, the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako sent a letter to Parliament asking it to amend the paragraph that a minor is registered as a Muslim if one of the two parents is converted to Islam.

State secularism and separation between religion and politics are values ​​that the Iraqi leadership has also reiterated these days during the meeting between Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako and Parliament Speaker Salim at Jubouri. "Direct talks - concludes Msgr. Warduni – in which we have strongly affirmed the need for a civil state and the amendment of the law on minors and religion. However, it will be difficult to get short-term results because of the pressures of extremist groups. "(DS)

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