Child marriage led to 4,000 divorces, mostly in Mosul

Photo by Sage Friedman for

By KirkukNow

In the past two years, more than 4,000 cases of divorce of women under the age of 15 have been registered in Iraq, most of it in Mosul, center of Ninewa province, with Kirkuk having the lowest number of cases.

Iraqi courts, excluding the Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI, in 2020 and 2021, have recorded 4,092 cases of divorce of women under the age of 15, as underage marriage is considered one of the main reasons for the increase in divorce rates, according to a report by the Supreme Judicial Council.

According to the report, the number of divorces of women under the age of 15 in 2020 was 1,498 cases and in 2021 soar to 2,594 cases.

In Iraq, Ninewa was ranked the first in the number of divorces of women under the age of 15 with 1,155 cases, 442 divorces in 2020 and 713 divorces in 2021.

"Despite the development of societies, we still suffer from early (Child, underage or premature) marriage in Iraq because of tradition," said Hassan Chaaloub, a judge at the Personal Status Court in Mosul.

Regarding the main reasons for divorce, Chaloub believes that financial conditions play a direct role in conflict between spouses, but also the level of culture and incompatibility of thinking are other reasons, as they are young, in addition to the rapid development of society and social networks causing tension and conflict between young couples.

mahkama musl

Nineveh/ 2019/ Personal Status Court Building in Mosul Photo: Kirkuk Naw


"The opening up of society after the liberation of the city from ISIS played a role in the increase in divorce cases," the judge said commenting about the high number of divorces in Mosul.

Child marriage is a formal or an informal union of two persons at least one of them is under 18 years old. Child marriage is also known as forced marriage, since a child

usually lacks the maturity and level of information necessary to make an informed choice. Children also often accept to get married under pressure, including threat or actual use of force, says a report about child marriage in Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR by United Nations Population Fund UNFPA.

Despite the development of societies, we still suffer from early marriage in Iraq

 “Child marriage is a violation of child’s basic rights, and abusive by nature. It limits a child’s opportunity to enjoy his/her childhood, continue his/her education and limits

his/her opportunities in life,” the report says.

KirkukNow has previously published several investigations about the increase in early (forced) marriages in Mosul, Ninewa province and other disputed territories of Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahaddin.

The judge believes the relationship between spouses is no longer the same and the simplest reasons lead to divorce.

“Many of the reasons for divorce are strange like a university professor getting divorce from her husband to marry a taxi driver.

The judge assured the judiciary has tried to reduce the number of divorces, as in the presence of spouses and before divorce, the court sends them to the office of social researchers to discuss the reasons for their disagreement and bring them closer together.

Ninewa was ranked the first in the number of divorces of women under the age of 15 with 1,155 cases

According to the Judicial Council, the lowest number of divorces in the past two years was recorded in Muthana province with only two cases, followed by Kirkuk with seven cases and Ziqar with seven cases of divorce of women under the age of 15.

In Diyala province, 532 cases of divorce were registered in the past two years, followed by only 23 in Salahaddin, 254 in Baghdad's Karkhi, 621 in Rusafa, 109 in Anbar, 195 in Basra, 405 in Babylon, 79 divorces in Wasit, 235 in Maysan, 138 in Najaf, 242 in Karbala and 144 in Qadisiyah.

“Child marriage has disastrous and life-threatening effects on the health, protection, economic, social and psychological development and wellbeing of young girls. It limits girl children access to education, sexual and reproductive health care and increases their isolation,” says Ramanthan Balakrishnan, UNFPA representative in Iraq.

The successive wars have forced parents, particularly in rural areas, to push their girls for marriage due to the harsh living conditions.

"In a divorce case, the wife was 37 years younger than the husband and when I asked her why she agreed to the marriage, she said she regretted it," said Judge Jaafar Maliki, a judge checks marriage cases at Sadr Personal Status Court.

“In most cases, those couples have children who after divorces will be the responsibility of grandparents.”


Ninewa, March 2019: Activists protest violence against women in Sinuny subdistrict of Shingal (Sinjar) district. Ibrahim Ezidi 

Item 1 of Article 7 of Iraq’s Personal Status Law (ratified in 1959 and amended in following years), stipulates that a person must be over 18 to be able to get married. But, Item 1 of Article 8 of the same law, stipulates that if a person is older than 15, a judge can permit her/him to marry if her/his legal guardian consents and “if the eligibility and physical ability of the person in question was proven to” the judge.

Item 2 of Article 8 stipulates that “The judge can authorize the marriage of a 15-year-old person if he sees in it an urgent necessity. Giving such authorization is also conditional upon the attainment of legal puberty and physical ability.”

A judge at the Sadr District Personal Status Court said the provision was issued to comply with Islamic law has set the age of puberty for marriage, but it is time to amend it to end early marriage.

“The current social situation is conducive to marriage of teens. Most of the couples of this age are financially weak and unable to find work due to their young age and income does not support the family,” he believes.

“They try to escape poverty, especially girls, through marriage which often ends in divorce due to lack of awareness and lack of opportunities for learning and understanding,” judge Maliki said.

According to UNICEF, those girls getting married before the age of 18 are more likely to face violence, threats and health problems than anyone else.

Every year, about 12 million girls under the age of 18 get married worldwide, according to UN figures, most of it in the Middle East.

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