Iraq’s Rasheed Bank provokes anger with second marriage loan offer

Cairo: An Iraqi state-owned bank has provoked anger among pro-women advocates after it announced a loan for civil servants marrying for the second time.

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Al Rasheed Bank said that would-be beneficiaries from the loan of 10 million Iraqi dinars (8,389 dollars) should not have previously got a marriage loan and should be in service for at least two years. “A marriage loan will be offered to the civil servant married for the second time on condition neither he nor his first wife has benefited from a marriage loan,” the bank said in a statement, according to Iraqi media.

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The offer has drawn sharp criticism. “It is shameful that such a statement comes from a respectable government bank. Women are not a commodity for display or sale,” Hanan Al Fatlawi, an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister for women’s affairs, tweeted.

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Iraqi lawmaker Rizan Al Sheikh urged Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to step in and scrap the controversial loan that it described as a sign of “administrative confusion”.

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She was quoted as threatening street protests unless the decision is revoked. “Government and private banks should shift towards a policy of employing the woman and motivating her success by offering loans for small-scale projects instead of turning her into a commodity through unfair decisions,” Al Sheikh.

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In reaction, the bank denied that the loan is aimed at encouraging second marriages.

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“It is meant for those who are divorced and widowed, and people with special family circumstances, the bank said. “As a bank, we have no legal right to prevent or encourage second marriage. This loan is available for men and women, and designated for those whose circumstances may oblige them to marry again,” it added.

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Iraq is grappling with a tough economic crisis amid falling oil prices and COVID-19 spread.

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