Iraqi Women’s Rights: Perspective from an Arab Civil Society Group

We are pleased to have received this article from our latest Pitapal: Raya Abu Gulal.  After tweeting back and forth regarding Iraq’s underground prostitution market, we wanted to revisit the larger issue of Iraqi women in the civic and political life.  Since 2003, the question persists: how much has women’s role regressed since Iraq’s political turmoil in the last 10 years?  Intended to be a liberation, 2003 proved to be the beginning of a process of deterioration for Iraqi women–as if Iraqi sanctions and three wars hadn’t disrupted the role of women enough.  As we had reflected last year in “HDI, Gender Gap Index, Gender Parity Index: None Incorporate Iraqi Women’s Conflict Management Efforts”, maybe we should reframe the question.  Maybe the larger question should be: how much have the political, civic, and economic roles of Iraqi women in the public space regressed in some respects, while advancing in other areas?

 Ms. Abu Gulal is currently running her own legal consultancy firm providing legal advice specializing in the Middle East. She is the co-founder of the Women Lawyers Group Middle East and member of various business groups. Raya is also appointed as committee member of the International Women Business Group (Abu Dhabi).

Iraqi women in the current political turmoil

By: Raya Abu Gulal   Originally posted on Your Middle East

Iraqi women began to enter the country’s job market in the 1920s and 1930 and have enjoyed fundamental women’s rights since late 1950s. This made Iraq one of the first nations to uphold modern standards of women’s rights in the world as well as a proponent of women’s rights in the Arab World. In 1979, the Iraqi constitution declared all women and men equal before the law, women studied and worked alongside men, and women formed at least 35 percent of the working population in various fields of work until the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Intended to be a liberation, 2003 proved to be the beginning of a process of deterioration for Iraqi women. The country’s new government and constitution does not appear to be an evolution from the historic precedent mentioned above, in terms of women’s rights and role in society. Also, Iraqi women, in particular, have become the victims of the current events in Iraq after 2003 and have been deprived from their basic rights, including security, salaries, and basic allowances. Many of the reasons behind this appear to be resulting from principles that are more orientated towards political survival of religious and sectarian movements rather than a genuine and accurate commitment to the religious foundations of Iraq’s dominant religious political movements.

The situation is causing a serious impact on Iraqi women and Iraqi society as a whole. There is a sharp increase in the exploitation of Iraqi women, particularly from extremist groups, resulting in the use of Iraqi women in suicide missions, forced prostitution, drug smuggling and other such terrible situations. This has also led to an increase in women suffering mental problems and other acute illnesses, which further impact Iraqi society, reaching into Iraqi families with severe impacts on children.

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Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

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