Contact: Christie Hobbs
Phone: (202) 349-5889

WASHINGTON, DC –The Independent Women’s Forum is disappointed by the lack of protection of women’s rights in the constitution that Iraqi leaders submitted to their nation’s parliament on Sunday. The constitution recognizes Islam as a primary source for Iraqi law, opening the door for interpretations of Islam that could have a negative impact on women’s human rights in Iraq.

“It is unconscionable that while the world laments the anger of Sunnis over the Iraqi constitution agreed to on August 28, the global community has been virtually silent on the issue of women’s human rights in Iraq,” said Michelle D. Bernard, senior vice president of the Independent Women’s Forum. “Although the constitution states that all Iraqis have equal protection under the law and its male and female citizens have the right to participate in the political process by voting and running for office, the imposition of various sects of shari’a law could erode these rights.”

“In its present form, the Iraqi charter clearly states that no law can be passed that contradicts Islam. What this means for women’s rights, or even the authority of Iraq’s constitutional court is extremely troubling,” said Bernard.

One particular area of concern for women is family law. Since the 1950s, family issues have been subject to civil law. The constitution which will be sent to voters for approval in October would make issues such as marriage and inheritance subject to clerical courts — a big step backwards for Iraqi women. Under the clerical courts or shari’a law, women can be denied custody of their children; they can be subjected to their families’ approval to pursue academic studies or work; they can be forced by their families to wear a headscarf or other clothing; and, most perilous for Iraq’s future democracy, women can be prohibited from holding positions of power.

“Democracy cannot survive in any nation that may legally oppress one half of its population,” cautioned Bernard. “Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that changes will be made in the Iraqi constitution before the October 15 nationwide referendum.”