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Last updated: June 2022

COI summary

[Targeting 2019, 3.5.2, 3.5.6; Actors of protection, 6.6; COI query on Yazidis; Targeting 2022, 7]

In general, people in Iraq have little opportunity to make their own choices with regard to marriage. Refusing to marry a man chosen by the family is one of the reasons why honour crimes are perpetrated. Early marriage is another concern in Iraq. Although Iraq’s Personal Status Law sets the legal age for marriage at 18, the law also allows a judge to permit girls as young as 15 to be married in ‘urgent’ cases. The number of girls that are married at the age of 15 or below is around 10 % in areas outside KRI. As of 2018, 24.3 % of women were reportedly first married or in union before the age of 18. During 2020, traditional early, so-called temporary marriage and forced marriages of women occurred throughout the country.

There is also a growing trend of marrying younger women as a measure of family security. There are reports that displaced families sometimes sell their children to other families in order to secure them a better future. Among IDPs and refugees, forced and child marriages are practiced as a way to reduce the family’s economic hardship. Under the so-called temporary or pleasure marriages, a man can marry a girl for a limited period of time in exchange for dowry money to her family. Some of these marriages work as a covert practice to facilitate prostitution.

The traditional practices of nahwas and fasliya, whereby women and girls are traded to settle tribal disputes, continued to occur especially in areas where tribes have more influence than state institutions, particularly in southern governorates.

In general, women in the KRI cannot choose whom to marry and usually will have to agree to marry a man chosen by their family. Especially in rural areas, forced and early marriages continue to take place in the KRI in large numbers.

In some cases, forced marriages consist of a ‘trade’ in which two brothers marry two sisters or an exchange marriage where a female is married in exchange of a bride for a male in her family. The practice finds sanction in tribal traditions, such as the tradition of ‘jin be jin’ (a woman for a woman), in which brides are exchanged between tribes in order to avoid the payment of dowries. The tradition of forced marriage as a method of resolving tribal disputes is also practiced.

In some cases, forced marriages result in the woman committing suicide.

Risk analysis

Forced and child marriage amount to persecution.

Not all women and girls would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution in relation to forced and child marriage. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: young age, area of origin (particularly affecting rural areas), perception of traditional gender roles in the family, poor socio-economic situation of the family, living in IDP situation, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of membership of a particular social group. For example, refusal to enter into forced or child marriage may result in honour-based violence for reasons of membership of a particular social group in relation to a common background which cannot be changed (refusal to marry) and/or a characteristic or belief that is so fundamental to identity or conscience that a person should not be forced to renounce it (the right to choose whom to marry) and the distinct identity of such women and girls in Iraq (in relation to stigmatisation by society and/or being considered as violating the honour of the family).