Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Women in the Iraqi Constitution

The latest draft of a new constitution for Iraq has some bits which are worrisome for women's rights:

The draft chapter, circulated discreetly in recent days, has ignited outrage among women's groups, which held a protest on Tuesday morning in downtown Baghdad at the square where a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by American marines in April 2003.

One of the critical passages is in Article 14 of the chapter, a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.

Under that measure, Shiite women in Iraq, no matter what their age, generally could not marry without their families' permission. Under some interpretations of Shariah, men could attain a divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives' presence.

Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.

It's important to know that a Muslim cannot stop being one, as far as I understand. Thus, the rights a woman has would be completely based on the sect she happens to be born into.

Worryingly, the new draft also suggests to get rid of the one fourth quota for women in the parliament:

Ms. Arayess, the Shiite drafter, said some of the writers were considering keeping the quota for the next two terms of the parliament before allowing it to lapse. After that, she said, women should be able to stand on their own.

Right. And pigs do fly.

Nobody really cares about women's rights in Iraq, certainly not within the U.S. government. Bush wouldn't have attacked the country if he had cared about the rights of women. Iraq used to have one of the most egalitarian legal systems for women, and look what we have wrought! Oh, I forgot, no more rape rooms. Though, they don't matter much as many women don't dare to go out in any case, fearing kidnapping and rape.