Iraq: Meeting of the Iraqi women's movement

Iraqi Al Amal Association
Details of a recent strategic meeting of the Iraqi women's movement, involving most of the active alliances of women's networks in Iraq.
The meeting aimed to form an advocacy and lobbying frontier between women's alliances and organizations, over the Committee of Constitution Reforms, regarding several demands to guarantee women's rights in the constitution.
In particular Article 41, and to preserve the Personal Status Law 188 of the year 1959, where this law was considered as one of the important factors to safeguard national stability in Iraq, and one of the important elements to keep the unity of the Iraqi family and guarantee women's rights too.

Ms. Narmin Othman, the minister of Environment, hosted a meeting for the Iraqi Women Movement, on Monday October 16th, 2006. The meeting was attended by: several women frames and alliances (Iraqi Women Network, National Alliance for Women of Iraq, Rafidain women Coalition, and Iraqi Foundation), prominent women figures (i.e. Dr. Azhar AlShaikhly/Former Minister of women affairs, Legal Expert Ms. Ta'meem Azzawi, Media Expert Dr. Asma Jameel)

Discussions over the Constitutional Reform were as follows:
  1. Article 41: dedicates sectarianism, and drifts the components and slices of Iraqi society apart, it doesn't concern Iraqi women only, as much as it tampers with the positive balance that has settled for years in the texture of the diverse Iraqi society, it also paves the way for systematic sectarian violence and spread of terror in Iraq, in the short and long run, in addition to weakening the role of state institutions in building state of law and justice, therefore it was emphasized to lift this article from the constitution.
  2. To preserve and maintain the PSL (1959/188), as a law foundation that was settled during implementation for half a century, in addition it has worked to unify all the legislative and legal laws in its frame, matching the society development needs.
  3. Confirmation to be pointed out clearly in the context of the constitution, that the Iraqi state, is a member state of the international community, which has ratified/acknowledged several international human rights conventions and treaties (i.e. Geneva and CEDAW), the International treaties to be considered other sources for Iraqi legislation, to guarantee against law breaking by tribal norms and social traditions that dedicates violence and discrimination against women in particular.
  4. Requesting from the donor countries, especially after ratifying the International Compact with Iraq ( ICI), to confirm to the Iraqi government the following:
    • The need to respect human rights and specifically women's human rights during the process of reforming the constitution;
    • Making sure that gender balance condition to be incorporated in all reconstruction and development projects, abiding by the security council resolution 1325;
    • Considering NGO participation in the ICI.
  5. Reservation and worry over the article 91/2 in the constitution which is suggesting to includ seats for experts and clergymen within the Higher Federal Court. An issue that will decrease and tamper with the role of judiciary system and law jurisdictions in this court frame, the request is to consider the role of the suggested category as consultative only.
  6. Women are very much under represented in the Constitution Reform Committee, where only two women members out of 27 members of the committee, suggestion to lobby for increasing the number of women in the committee.
  7. Lobby to form a consultative committee attached to the Constitutional Reform Committee, this committee will comprise of Civil Society Organizations, and women organizations, to guarantee public and democratic share in the constitutional reform process.
Other pressing issues discussed in the meeting:
  • Militias and organized gangs operations, the infiltration of the state security system by the militias, spread of arms outside the control of the government, has become the largest source of terror and danger for Iraqis living under total security chaos, which has lead to paralyzing all life aspects with education and economy sector suffering the most. More young teenaged fighters are exploited and involved in violent and terrorizing operations.
  • More statements and news reporting on women kidnapped and getting threats, which calls for IWM to document and watch the events of women rights violations and the dangers they've become exposed to. This step will add credibility and objectivity to the women abuse facts, mechanisms and measures to face this increasing problem.
  • Weak performance of state institutions and law, have allowed for growing religious and sectarian extremism in different government institutes, specifically the educational and cultural one, a thing that warns of things to develop into new Taliban rule.
  • With reference to the women committee in the Council of Representatives, it was noted that the members of the committee are subject to be restricted to their political parties agenda, without giving priority to the violations and abuse against women and their rights prevailing in the general perspective, and inside the governmental institutions, an issue which requires from the women organizations to provide the committee with suggestions on legislations, and requesting them to rise up to their responsibility to monitor and follow up.
  • All opinions agreed that the State Ministry of Women Affairs only carried the name; it has no interactive existence on the ground in serving Iraqi women issues. While the efforts to change the mandate of the ministry from one without portfolio, to full ministry will take very long time, the thing that will create a vaccum in the policy of the government towards women issues, and confirm the fact that the lawmakers are not serious in responding to women needs and progress.
  • The participants regretted the fact that the SMOWA, didn't invite active women organizations to the late national reconciliation conference, which showed another governmental activity that is far away from the activity objectives itself.
  • The suggestion to establish a commission on women affairs is to be considered, the suggested commission mandate is to be similar to the Human Rights commission, in order to mobilize the three authorities of the state (legislative, executive, and judiciary), while involving CSOs, to put the strategic plan for advancement of women and eliminating all kinds of discrimination against her. Membership should not be subjected to sectarian and political quotas, the only criteria to count for is efficiency.
  • Lobby and advocacy campaign for the Constitutional Reform, to gain support for women demands from alliances other than women CSOs and alliances (i.e. youth organizations, trade unions such as engineers and teachers'.. etc)
  • Campaign with political entities in the Representatives Council, to gain support for Iraqi Women Movement requests on Constitutional Reform, while working in paradox to extend the time frame for constitutional reform, which will enhance the trust and dialogue building between the political entities, to prevail security, stability, and national unanimity over the political process.
  • Using media as an active tool for lobby and advocacy in the IWM campaign.
  • It was agreed to coordinate between alliances and groups to draft a memorandum to include all the above requests/recommendations.