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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. 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.

Children face enormous health risks related to early marriage, pregnancy and delivery, both physically and psychologically. Starting these processes early in life also increases their risk of social isolation and exposure to violence. In the Kurdistan region-Iraq, child marriage is a serious and growing issue that needs an uncompromising intervention in the form of preventive legislations and protective measures. In parallel, sustained efforts to raise public awareness and continuous advocacy against child marriage remain a must for changing social practices and adopting new behaviour. Without changing social practices, child marriage is bound to stay within a society even with the adoption of laws that prevent it.

Child marriage is a global issue that negatively affects the rights of adolescent boys and girls, with a particular disadvantage for girls: many more girls than boys are married young. Over 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday and more than one in three (about 250 million) entered into a union before the age 152. Child spouses are generally more vulnerable to gender based violence, domestic violence and sexual abuse within the framework of marriage. Their early pregnancies often leave them longstanding adverse consequences on their physical and mental health.

Nevertheless, child marriage almost equally affects the prospects for boys and girls in terms of opportunities in the future. A number of international legal instruments address the issue of child marriage, such as prohibiting child marriage, including the standardization of marriage consent, setting a legal age of marriage, and marriage registration. These instruments include the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage,Minimum Age of Marriage, and Registration of Marriage; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979); the Convention on the Rights of Child (1989); and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. 

This fact sheet provides information about the problem of child marriage in the Kurdistan region- Iraq from the legal and societal perspectives and identifies a number of steps necessary for the elimination of child marriage in Kurdistan region of Iraq. Therefore, it includes an overview of the problem context in Kurdistan region-Iraq; the causes of the problem and its consequences on child spouses; analysis of the legal context pertaining to child marriage in Kurdistan region-Iraq; and finally recommendations and suggested policies to address the problem.The applicable methodology for producing this fact sheet includes desk study of the existing legal frameworks and literature related to child marriage in the Kurdistan region-Iraq, in addition to interviews with child spouses, legal experts, state officials, and advocates of children and women’s rights.