Academic journal article Texas Journal of Women, Gender, and the Law

Building Backwards: Helping Heal Iraq through Women's Rights

Academic journal article Texas Journal of Women, Gender, and the Law

Building Backwards: Helping Heal Iraq through Women's Rights

Article excerpt

I.INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................... 81

II.THE 2003 INVASION AND THE 2005 CONSTITUTION ................... 84

III.HISTORY OF WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS IN IRAQ ........................... 85

A. The Women 's Movement in Iraq, 1900-1960 ............................ 86

B. The Rise of the Ba 'ath Party in Iraq, 1960-1980 ...................... 89

C. Effect of War Years and Sanctions, 1980-2002 ......................... 91

IV.ABAND?NING APPEASEMENT, SUPPORTING RIGHTS ............. 93

A. Westernization, Islam and Women 's Rights .............................. 93

V.ACTION ITEMS ..................................................................................... 96

VI.CONCLUSION ................................................................ : ..................... 98

I. INTRODUCTION

The modern constitution-making process in Iraq has included difficult and dangerous challenges, including reconciling the competing interests of ideologically, ethnically, and religiously diverse blocs. Divisions are evident both among formal Sunni, Shi 'a, and Kurdish factions and also among various smaller groups. The U.S. has supported certain factions' goals at the expense of others, while supposedly trying to encourage both an Islamic democracy and one that recognizes human rights.

The Bush Administration and several vocal participants justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq by asserting that their goals for the invasion included strengthening women's participation and their legal rights.1 However, Americans in Iraq have done little to ensure that Iraq's organized, nationalistic women have a voice in their government.2 The most obvious examples of the U.S. failure to support women appear in Articles 39 and 41 of Iraq's 2005 constitution, which empower local clerics to determine the extent of the legal rights afforded to wives, mothers, and daughters. Therefore, Articles 39 and 41 give the force of law to local clerics' opinions and interpretations about Islam, no matter how radical. By contrast, these matters of women's status within their families, called Personal Status Laws (PSL), were nationally applicable and, in many cases, more progressive thirty and even fifty years ago. Modifications to PSL in 1959 and in 19783 made PSL the equivalent of civil law: codified and applicable to all of Iraq. The PSL from the 1950s and the 1970s were the results of hard-fought campaigns by women's groups and compromise with more conservative factions.

Over the past century in Iraq, women's groups have pushed for progressive PSL. The varying success of these initiatives, and the interplay between Iraqi nationalism and progressive PSL, make these laws in particular an effective proxy the legal and political status of Iraqi women during any given period over the last century. A brief history: Iraq became a republic after a coup in 1958, and the Iraqi Women's League successfully advocated for PSL that severely restricted polygamy and modernized divorce laws, among other reforms. The Ba'ath regime amended the PSL in 1978, widening the conditions under which a woman could seek a divorce, outlawing forced marriages, and requiring a judge's permission for a man to marry a second wife. However, the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s and sanctions imposed by the U.N. in 1990 impoverished Iraq. Saddam Hussein began to trade women's rights advances in order to appease powerful fundamentalist groups and secure his power. The U.S. led overthrow of Saddam's government failed to build on the advances Iraqi women had gained by the late 1970s. Articles 39 and 41 of the 2005 constitution decline to specify a national standard for PSL, and therefore also decline to standardize women's legal status. This means that Iraqi women have a legal status more like that during Saddam's later regime, and less like the comparatively empowering legal framework they enjoyed in the 1960s and 1970s. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.