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Poverty and Underage Marriage in Iraq

underage marriage
A pressing issue in Iraq without much resistance or counteraction is underage marriage. Out of the total number of marriages in 2013, 11% involved an underage girl, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. Additionally, 25% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 6% are married before the age of 15. Also known as uneven marriages in Iraq, they are controversial because there are multiple motives behind them. While some girls are forced completely against their will, others enter an uneven marriage to lift themselves or their family out of poverty. For instance, there was a recent story of a 16-year-old girl married off to a man over the age of 60 at the request of her father, Abu Ali. His reasoning for this was to benefit his family, which lives in poverty. He had been supporting his five daughters on an income amounting to only $300 per month. Since the family had been suffering and struggling to make ends meet, Ali married off his daughter to help the situation. Ali said of the matter, “Poverty was an important reason that led me to agree to this marriage.” Besides the breach this has on women’s rights, it also contributes to negative health effects for young girls. Often these girls are expected to carry and raise children, but most are simply too young; pregnancy also poses high health threats. There is an increased possibility of miscarriage, internal bleeding and even maternal mortality. These adverse health risks are either ignored or unknown due to disregard for reproductive health for women. Damaging health effects are not the only consequence of underage marriage. Girls who have been married underage often drop out of school early. Girls lacking education have few options and opportunities and are forced to depend on marriage to sustain them. Since girls would be entering the workforce drastically less and would be unable to contribute to the economy, this also stifles human development. This epidemic exist in Iraq and many parts of the Arab region as well as sub-Saharan Africa. A study in June 2013 found that one in seven girls is married in the Arab region before she turns 18. Besides Iraq, underage marriage is most prevalent in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, calculatedly the poorest countries in the area. In these countries, more than one third of girls are married before they turn 18, which is more than in Iraq. Not only is underage marriage detrimental to the lives involved, it also has consequences for societies on a larger scale. Even though some girls enter these marriages to alleviate poverty, in the long term it does more harm than good as underage marriage promulgates and reinforces a cycle of poverty. This is especially true since it causes girls to stop their schooling, leaving them unable to earn money of their own. Since this problem hinders society and human progress, it is a concern that should be reprioritized. – Danielle Warren Sources: Al-Monitor, Population Reference Bureau