Iraq

Iraq: Fears grow for women's rights as deadline looms for constitution draft

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BAGHDAD, 28 July (IRIN) - As the August deadline for completion of the Iraqi constitution nears, there are continuing calls for delegates to include provisions protecting women's rights in the family and society more generally.

"Members of the drafting committee will have to decide whether to protect women's rights or erode them for political gain," Janet Walsh, acting Women's Rights director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

"We strongly urge them to make the right choice and to advance basic rights for women."

The drafting of the constitution has faced many challenges recently, not least a Sunni boycott after the killing of two of the community's delegates, and gender activists fear that women's rights will be ignored.

The draft constitution is due for completion on 15 August, after which it is to be referred for debate and approval.

"The interim constitution is not a perfect document," Walsh said. "It failed explicitly to guarantee women equal rights in the family and in society more broadly, but members of the drafting committee now have a chance to ensure that these guarantees are spelled out in the new constitution."

HRW highlighted the need for equal rights within marriage, during divorce and on inheritance issues.

Women should also have the right to transfer citizenship to their children and fully participate in political and public life, a HRW statement said.

Amal, an Iraqi women's NGO, held a meeting in Baghdad on Thursday and voiced its concerns over the same issue.

"We are concerned about the laws related to marriage particularly with certain tribes in the country," secretary general for Amal, Hana Edward said.

"They force women to marry into tribes because another female relative is already married into the tribe."

Members have submitted their concerns to the Iraqi government and the United Nations.

In addition, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, during its 33rd session which ended on 22 July at the UN, reiterated calls for the interim Iraqi government to do as much as possible to ensure that women are included in the reconstruction process, and that their rights are represented under the new constitution.

The committee stressed that there was a need for women and children, who have been victims of war, to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.

[ENDS]

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