Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Iraqis debate constitution’s stance on women

A debate is underway in Iraq about Article 41 of the interim constitution, a single line in a 16-page document, but one that many say will have far-reaching implications for women, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Supporters of the clause say it will deter government interference in civil issues by allowing Iraqis to abide by the rule of their religious sect in personal matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.

However, the Times says that: “Opponents, including women’s rights activists and legal scholars, say the one poorly worded sentence opens the door to rule by draconian interpretations of Islamic law that could sanction the stoning of adulterous women, allow underage girls to be forced into marriage and permit men to abandon their wives by declaring, ‘I divorce you,’ three times.”

There are already signs of religious extremism being used to rein in women. Basra police say that gangs enforcing their idea of Islamic law have killed 15 women in the last month. ”There are gangs roaming through the streets . . . pursuing women and carrying out threats and killing because of what the women wear or because they are using makeup,” the Basra police commander, Maj. Gen Abdul Jaleel Khalaf, said this month.

“Sometimes notes are left on the women’s bodies saying they were killed for violating religious law or social traditions,” the Times says.

In May, a video circulated of the fatal stoning of a 17-year-old Yazidi girl who had violated the rules of her sect by having a relationship with a Muslim man.

Luma Ali, a 23-year-old engineering student who opposes any role for religion in government, said of the incident: “I am sure we will be hearing stories like this over and over again. I cannot believe this is still happening to us women.”

Ali’s female friend added: “It is really an insecure world for women in Iraq. Everything is subject to development in Iraq – everything except the way women should live, marry and die.”

According to the Times: “Supporters of Article 41 say criminal law and international human rights agreements would prevent the Yazidi girl’s killers from using the provision to justify their actions. But opponents are not willing to take that chance.”

Conversely, the Times notes that “10 female legislators suggested in August that Article 41 should be replaced with the old family law under Hussein, which drew on Islamic teachings and tribal traditions but was considered radically liberal for the Middle East.”

The controversy over Article 41 highlights the broader debate over how large a role religion play in the Iraqis’ lives, the Times says, adding: “It also underscores shortfalls of the original constitution, which was drafted in 2005 by newly elected Iraqi legislators facing a U.S.-imposed deadline. Redrafting the document is one of the benchmarks sought by the Bush administration to set the stage for an eventual U.S. troop withdrawal. But it has been delayed three times as lawmakers haggle over issues such as provincial powers, religious and cultural freedoms, and distribution of oil revenue.”

For the full article, click here.



Post a Comment

<< Home