An Iraqi court adjourned a hearing Sunday to allow a man to formalize his religious marriage to a 12-year-old girl, while feminist activists protested in rejection of this phenomenon.
The mother, who refuses to be identified, said her daughter Israa had been "raped" and that the girl's father kidnapped her.
Lawyer Marwan Obeidi told AFP that the marriage can’t be formalized because the girl is a minor.
The legal age for marriage in Iraq is 18 but can be lowered to 15 in cases of parental or judicial consent, according to the charity Save the Children.
"Religious marriages are not permitted outside civil or religious courts but these types of marriages still happen regularly and can be formalized on the payment of a small fine," it said in a recent report.
But a department of the interior ministry dealing with violence against women said in a statement that it had met with Israa, her father and husband, seen the religious contract, and said she had assured them she had not been coerced.
Rights activists including Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), protested outside the Personal Status Court in Kadhimiya with banners such as “the marriage of minors is a crime against childhood”.
The NGO is also calling for the repeal of article 398 of the criminal code, which “allows the rapist to escape punishment if he marries the victim”.