Your Excellency, Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government,
Your Excellency, Qubat Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister Your Honor, Judge Bangin Qasim, Head of the Judicial Council,
Your Excellency Mr. Karim Sinjari, Minister for Interior, Excellencies Ministers,
Your Excellency, Ms. Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary-General, the High Council for Women’s Affairs,
Honorable Members of Parliament and Heads of Blocs, Governors, members of the Judiciary,
Distinguished religious authorities and representatives,
Distinguished Members, Cross-Sector Task Force,
Distinguished Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished civil society representatives,
I am honored to be here today as we mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence under the theme “Hear Me Too”.
I’d like to open my intervention with quotations from the message of the UN Secretary General on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women:
“Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic. It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.
This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’. With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.”
The upcoming months and years will be extremely challenging for the new Governments - both at the federal level and in the Kurdistan Region. They will have to cope with the impact of the grave crimes of the brutal terrorist Daesh, that amongst others brought destruction of lives of many, with a devastating impact in particular on women. They will have to establish justice and accountability and pursue societal and political reconciliation. They will have to introduce profound political, social and economic reforms that will finally address the needs of the people of Iraq, of the Kurdistan Region. Reforms that must start with education – for respect and equal rights, opportunities and treatment of men and women and against exclusion, prejudice and harmful cultural and religious practices and traditions. Here protection of women and girls, furthering of their rights, empowering them, also economically, is more critical than ever.
While public awareness of harassment, of violence against women and girls has in the past period increased through media attention, social media activism, public health campaigns and social research, violence against women and girls has not abated. Authorities have reported an increase in the number of cases of violence against women this year compared to last, often because of women breaking their silence.
Despite increased awareness of sexual and gender-based violence and important efforts to combat it, there are still an alarming number of women and girls who continue to face this horrific violation of their rights. Domestic violence remains a serious concern. Early and forced marriage continues to be reported, including in IDP camps. Conflict-related sexual violence in the context of the fight against ISIL remain a significant problem, however, survivors are at a visible disadvantage due to lack of attention, ineffective policies and lack of resources to support survivors.
Nonetheless, progress continues to be seen. Here I’d like to commend the work of the KRG, of the High Council of Women’s Affairs, of the civil society in the Kurdistan region. More cases dealing with violence and other abuses against women have been positively resolved. The Region has abolished provisions still existing in the Iraqi Penal Code, that allowed for softer sentences in honor killings, has amended other laws and discusses how to bring also the Kurdistan Region Law on Combating Domestic Violence more in line with international standards, with the needs of women. A hotline 119, established by UNFPA in cooperation with the General Directorate of Combating Violence Against Women in the Ministry of Interior, for victims of domestic violence and other abuses and has been already receiving dozens of calls daily.
The UN in Iraq, notably humanitarian partners are strengthening their assistance across all areas of interventions.
For example, UNHCR continues to support DCVAW mobile teams and fixed units to provide life-saving interventions to survivors of SGBV across the Kurdistan Region, including for Syria refugee women and girls. UNDP has provided technical support and trained DCVAW staff, police and NGO partners, provides support to legal centers including legal aid teams in IDP camps across three governorates of the Kurdistan Region. UNFPA through the 130 women centers, provide services, including case management and psychosocial support, to gender-based violence survivors.
Finally, 3 weeks ago UNITAD - the UN Special Investigative Mechanism to deal with the crimes of ISIL has started its work in Iraq, including the Kurdistan region. Among the victims the case of Yazidis, targeted by ISIL genocidal policies will be high on the agenda.
Here I’d like to congratulate the 2 winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Ms.
Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege for their campaign to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in armed conflict.
I am pleased to see that 34 women have been elected to the Kurdistan regional parliament. I encourage the political entities to ensure equal, meaningful, full participation of women in the Kurdistan Region’s political processes. The previous Kurdistan Regional Parliament led by example – it amended its Rules to provide that one of the Deputy Speaker’s be a woman. Kurdistan Regional Government’s cabinet will also be formed soon, and we hope that many able and competent women will be appointed to ministerial positions and other high positions in the administration of the Region.
The UN family in Iraq based on the UNAMI mandate remains committed to assisting Iraqi women in promoting and protecting their rights, equality and aspirations, including their economic empowerment, notably for women-led households, in advancing the 1325 INAP and overall SGBV and WPS agenda. It will mobilize support of the broader international community, potential donors, including through a newly-established International Gender Group from among embassies in Baghdad.
Thank you for your attention.