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Report on Human Rights Violations against Women and Girls in Iraq

Together with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Human Rights and Gender Justice (HRGJ) Clinic, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, MADRE submitted this report on human rights violations against women and girls in Iraq to the U.N. Human Rights Committee for its consideration in developing its List of Issues regarding the Government of Iraq's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report describes persistent human rights violations against women and girls in Iraq and the Government's failure to implement the Human Rights Committee's prior recommendations to address them. It also provides suggested questions for the Human Rights Committee to ask the Government of Iraq during its review.

In early October 2019, Iraqi civil society began peaceful demonstrations, calling on the Government to end corruption and unemployment, and to address inadequate housing and lack of basic services. In defiance of patriarchal gender norms, women joined the demonstrations to demand rights and equality. Alongside all demonstrators, they have faced significant repression and violence, while suffering additional public reprobation from key religious leadership for breaking with traditional gender norms and for calling for women’s rights. With the spread of coronavirus in Iraq, the situation is becoming particularly acute for women and girls, especially those who face multifacted discrimination, based on gender, as well as race and/or disability. Iraqi women and girls confront a lack of adequate health services, and a lack of access to services and justice for gender-based violence victims at a time when domestic violence is increasing in relation to measures to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iraq is at a fragile crossroads, making it more important than ever that the international community support Iraqi civil society’s efforts to protect human rights. Women are key actors in efforts to avert conflict and build just societies, and their meaningful participation is linked to recognition of their basic human rights, including the right to be free from gender-based violence. The Government of Iraq should listen to women’s leadership in civil society movements, including in the recent demonstrations, and meaningfully consult with the women’s leadership who are on the frontlines calling for change, and not just the “self chosen” leadership of the protest movement. This will sow the seeds for sustainable change and help protect the foundation of women’s rights that the demonstrations have called for.

Key recommendations for both the International community and the Government of Iraq include the following:

  1. Pass the draft Family Violence Protection Law.  The law would set a historical precedent providing recognition of victims and holding abusers accountable for attempted ‘honor’ crimes and other forms of domestic violence. It is currently pending in the Iraqi parliament.
  2. Provide adequate protection to Iraqi NGOs providing shelter. Women’s organizations not only provide shelter for the most vulnerable; they also act as first responders, providing much-needed aid and peer-to-peer support - without the sectarian strings often attached to religious groups and associations.

Read the report

May 29, 2020