Gender-based violence is a common issue for hundreds of Iraqi women and their families. Unfortunately, many find it almost impossible to seek meaningful assistance that would guarantee safety for their well-being as well as their children’s. Current policies only allow for shelter services to be hosted by government-run agencies. Not only does that limit the amount of support grassroots organizations can provide, but there are so few shelters that can legally provide necessary resources to those seeking support.
In partnership with Rafidain Center for Dialogue Forum, MADRE held a high-level roundtable in Baghdad, to discuss the draft Family Violence Protection Law and the shelter policy in Iraq. Participants of the roundtable included parliamentarians, government officials and local organizations.
Moderated by Rejna Alaaldin, MADRE Iraq Legal Advocate, the meeting started with presentations from speakers, including; Yanar Mohammed, Founder and President of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI); Dr. Abdulbari al-Mudaris, Member of Iraq Parliament, Head of the Legal Committee and heading the draft law; Lisa Davis, MADRE Senior Legal Advisor and Khanim Latif, founder of Asuda Organization and the Senior Advisor for Women’s Rights and Civil Society to the President of Iraq.
The session focused on the opportunities and the challenges of implementing the draft law and amending the shelter policy. Currently, the law only permits government-run institutions to organize shelters. Iraqi organizations and their international allies are calling for adoption of an amendment that would clarify Iraqi organization's ability to provide shelter to women. Providing legal protection to Iraqi organization run-shelters would be a major step towards protecting women’s safety in Iraq.
If the law is passed with the amendment to the shelter policy, the law would propel forward the expansion of critically needed shelter, not only for women fleeing domestic violence but also for women and children left vulnerable by the conflict.
The draft law is strongly supported by the Committee of Women, Family and Childhood in Parliament. The Head of the Committee and Member of Iraq Parliament, Ms. Haifa al-Amin, was also in attendance and provided an overview. Dr. Abdulbari and this Committee are taking the lead in drafting and amending the law as well as bringing this issue up with parliamentary coalitions, legal experts and international organizations. The advocacy work to gather the attention of influential figures has increased both the visibility and importance of this draft.
There has been some positive momentum with this law. It was agreed that more dialogue and collaboration is required to progress the status of the law and that civil society organizations should have a greater role as they are often better equipped to support victims and survivors and have gained the trust of local communities while building good working relationships with local officials. Many of these local organizations provide additional services to help survivors rebuild their lives and reduce their vulnerability to future violence. In the long-term, it would help to build sustainability in Iraq and deter the rise of violence.