Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Women's Rights in Iraq

Earlier I had posted about a rather ridiculous comment by Howard Dean that women would be worse off in Iraq now as opposed to under Hussein. While I believe my initial reaction was correct, it was not complete.

One fear is that given that there will be a heavy Islamic influence on the new Iraq government, women's rights in Iraq will take a step backwards. While it is unlikely they could get worse, this is a legitimate concern. NPR has recently covered this issue, and notes:
Human-rights groups are concerned the Iraqi constitution will place restrictions on women's freedom in areas such as property rights and divorce.
I don't have enough details of the Iraq constitution writing process to know how serious this concern is. One would certainly not be surprised to hear that they are well-founded. In an effort to gauge how things are going, I checked with Chrenkoff's latest "Good News From Iraq" installment, which happens to be part 25. Here is a relevant section:
The newly elected Iraqi Transitional National Authority (TNA) will write a constitution this year and it is essential that women be involved in the process in order to guarantee their rights. USAID's partner implementing the project to support the TNA and the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution hosted a meeting in late February with 26 women leaders to discuss an initiative to ensure that women's rights are included in the constitution. Over the next year, the implementing partner will work with women elected officials and civil society representatives to educate Iraqis on the importance of constituting women's rights, and to train them in the necessary advocacy and education skills they will need to promote their rights with the Iraqi Government and the society at large.
It is important to note that this is the view of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It does not represent the current state of the constitution writing process--things certainly could turn out more negative there.

Overall, it would seem that the issue is still undecided. Hopefully things will progress positively and the women of Iraq will get to share in the new found freedom that all people of Iraq deserve. It bears repeating that above all else things cannot return to the state they were in before the Iraqi people were liberated, where:
Under the pretext of fighting prostitution, units of "Feda'iyee Saddam," the paramilitary organization led by Uday, have beheaded in public more than two hundred women all over the country, dumping their severed heads at their families' door steps. Many of the victims were innocent professional women, including some who were suspected of being dissidents.
Women are often raped in order to blackmail their relatives. Men who leave Iraq and join Iraqi opposition groups regularly receive videotapes showing the rape of a female relative. These tapes are intended to discourage Iraqi nationals abroad from engaging in opposition activities. Some authorities carry personnel cards identifying their official "activity" as the "violation of women's honor.

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