AMMAN, 21 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Aid organisations working in the Middle East have called for greater protection of women's rights under the new constitution in Iraq, which is currently being drafted.
Some 20 NGOs, from Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories and Iraq, raised their concerns at an international conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman, this week.
The event was organised by Spain's Movement For Peace, Disarmament and Liberty (MPDL).
"It is vital that policy-makers in Iraq listen to and act upon the needs of women, and ensure that women's rights are protected," head of mission of MPDL-Iraq, Audrey Palama, said on Thursday.
MPDL is working with women in the Middle East to create a space for face-to-face dialogue on gender issues.
"Iraq is at a crucial point in its history and women are playing a key role as members of civil society organisations: holding dialogue with diverse groups and articulating the needs of women in the country," she said.
The interim constitution in place in Iraq did not sufficiently address the rights of women, compared to the constitution during the time of former president Saddam Hussein, according to Palama. "We need to secure that there will be more attention paid to women's rights this time."
At a legislative level, the country's laws were previously more women-friendly, she said. For example, a man had to ask legal permission from his wife in order to have a second wife; a man is allowed to have up to four wives under Islam.
Iraq, according to Palama, was one of the best countries in the region for upholding women's rights under the former regime, comparing favourably to neighbouring countries.
"The problem is that rights are not applied properly or implemented in the Middle East," she said, referring to the region at large.
Participants at this week's conference in Amman have drawn up recommendations on the Iraqi constitution, including more specific articles to be included on the protection of women's rights.
These are to be presented to United Nations and government officials involved in drafting the document before the 15 August deadline.
"We call upon international society - above all upon the United Nations, all states, and upon international, Arabic and regional institutions - to stand by Iraqi women to guarantee and ensure their rights," a participants' statement read.
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