Iraq's Rasheed Bank has reportedly begun offering loans worth $8,400 (10 million dinars) to any male state employee who wishes to take a second wife.
The bank's spokeswoman Amal Al-Shuwaili who was quoted by Rudaw yesterday stated "Due to an abundance of requests from people for loans to marry a second wife, Rasheed Bank decided to loan 10,000,000 dinars to any employee wanting to marry a second wife"
Rasheed Bank is one of the country's largest state-owned banks, with over 138 branches nationwide. To be eligible for the loan which is to be repaid within five years, the applicant and his first wife should not have previously received similar state benefits.
"The applicant should be a permanent state employee with no less than two years of service," Shuwali said, adding that the applicant should have a guarantor who must also be a state employee. "Everyone can benefit from this amount of money, regardless of their location," she said.
The announcement was not met without reactions across social media, with many women in particular voicing their disapproval of the move. Some users also expressed surprise at a time when Iraq is currently going through a financial crisis and witnessing high unemployment rates among young people. There are also reported delays in paying government employees' salaries.
Although the bank said that "both sexes" are covered by the loan, reports Al-Ain, feminist activist Dina Al-Saadi described the announcement as "insulting to women." Al-Saadi said, "Encouraging marriage by granting applicants loans is something that degrades the dignity of the woman whose marriage is supposed to be out of desire and complete conviction and not to obtain material temptations."
The reactions on social media prompted the bank to issue a second statement clarifying the previous announcement in which it stated that the granting of the loan is conditional on the request being after "divorce or death" of one of the spouses. Meaning that those wishing to marry another wife, while they are still married, may not be eligible for the loan.
Economist Ali Al-Marsoumi was quoted by Al-Hurra as suggesting the policy of encouraging borrowing from banks especially with local currency is a well-known policy in times of material crises in order to "combat inflation" and increase state imports. According to Al-Marsoumi, the decision is "economically justified".
Although polygamy is illegal in most countries it exists it is legally recognised in many Muslim countries in accordance with Sharia rulings, including Iraq. Last year the leading imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the highest religious authority in the country said men who want to enter polygamous marriages "must obey conditions of fairness", as per the Quranic injunctions.
"If there is no fairness it is forbidden to have multiple wives" he said.