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Executive Summary

It is essential that Iraqi women continue to play a vital role in their emerging democracy. Through their active participation in their government and civil society they must work to maintain their human rights to be governed by civil-not religious-courts and statutes in matters of family law such as divorce, inheritance, and child custody.

Iraq is nothing without the full integration and participation of half of its society, its women. Women doctors and pharmacists, teachers and scholars, housekeepers, and seamstresses; have struggled through the wars and strife of the past 40 years and have worked to raise children and support families through numerous hardships. Denying them their rightful place in a democratic Iraq would be a catastrophe.

In February of 2004 women successfully secured a retraction of the Iraqi Governing Council’s Resolution 137-the resolution would have transferred civil actions in regards to family and personal law including marriage, divorce and inheritance matters, to the jurisdiction of clerics and Shari’ah or Islamic law. However, Iraqi women continue to battle against repeated efforts to dismantle the legal tenets which established civil precedence in Iraqi family law in 1959. The most recent attack on women’s rights in these matters is enshrined in Article 41 of the Iraqi constitution. Article 41 is in essence a repackaging of Resolution 137. Many see Article 41 and its call for family law to be governed by various interpretations of Shari’ah determined by sect or tribe as a direct contradiction of Article 14 of the same document which states that “all Iraqis are equal before the law.” Analysts claim these differing interpretations could in some communities lead to the legal marriage of girls as young as nine.