War on Iraq

Kurdistan Parliament Forbids Forced Marriages

An sweeping amendment to a 1959 law will punish those who try to force marriage upon family members.
The personal status law, in place in the country for decades now, is undergoing sweeping changes.

Kurdistan Region Parliament held continuous sessions this week and amended items of the 1959 personal status law. The amendments punish relatives who force unwanted marriages or prevent wanted marriages. Kurdish lawmakers failed on Wednesday to pass the amendment regarding family costs.

"No relative or others have the right to force any person [male or female] to be married without his or her approval. Forced marriage is regarded as invalid before entering. But if it is entered into, it will be suspended. Also, no relatives or others have the right to prevent anyone who wants to get married from marrying," read the amended and translated Article 9 of the original law.

In another item, the law punishes relatives who force anyone into marriage. Relatives of first degree [parents] will be sentenced to prison for a period of between two and five years. For other relatives, the sentence will be imprisonment for no less than 3 years and no more than 10 years. This was passed with 34 approving and 27 opposing it.

The marriage age was fixed at 16 years with the condition the person marrying must be competent and physically grown.

By a vote of 31 to 24, Parliament failed to impose fines and imprisonment on those who contract marriage bonds outside court.

Muslims in Kurdistan sign their marriage bonds in the attendance of a Muslim cleric and then register at court.

Parliament is discussing a law project presently by the KRG to amend the personal status law, which has been in place for decades in the country. Parliamentary committees of human rights, religious affairs, and defenders of women rights as well as the legal committee are offering suggestions to the amendments.

In Wednesday's session, Parliament discussed items about family finances, but the session was postponed when 10 members walked out of the session as protest against the new amendments.

The husband affords the wife's costs, and when the wife is financially competent, then the family costs will be common. This item was approved with a majority of votes. "If the man can't afford his wife's costs, the costs will remain as debts on the man, according to this law," read another amended item.

Lawmakers couldn't agree on passing the item about family duties. As mentioned in the amendments, if the husband doesn't fulfill family duties (this would be defined as "nushuz" in Arabic), he has to pay the woman's costs until the day of separation. But if the wife was committing "nushuz," she will be deprived from the costs and marriage bond money. The controversial issue among the member regarding this item was whether to mention the word "nushuz."

Members from the Islamic bloc objected removing the Arabic word, saying that it is a word of Holy Quran and must be inserted. Because of this issue, 10 members left the session, forcing Parliament speaker Adnan Mufti to postpone the rest of the discussion for the coming session.

"Nushuz" is a religious Arabic word meaning "not to sleep with."
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