UN Iraq Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert remarks at the 12th annual international conference, “Islamic Day to Counter the Violence against Women”, organized by the Al-Hakim International Foundation in Baghdad - 19 September 2020 [EN/AR]

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to participate with you in the 12th Islamic Day for countering Violence against Women. I thank the Al-Hakim International Foundation for this initiative, which reaffirms our shared position that violence against women in any form is unacceptable and cannot be justified.

Regrettably, violence against women and girls is a harsh, everyday reality. We will soon be hearing from survivors of unspeakable acts of conflict-related violence which have tragically marked the recent history of Iraq.

Sadly, in Iraq as elsewhere, violence against women is also a commonplace occurrence that is most acutely felt in the domestic context: I will focus my remarks today on this silent crisis, and efforts to address it.

Measures that had to be put in place to counter the rapid spread of COVID-19 unfortunately exacerbated the use of violence at home.

In April 2020, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, called on all nations not to turn a blind eye to this crisis, but to prioritize the protection of women and children as part of their COVID-19 response. We all have a collective responsibility to end violence against women, he said, in all its forms. Before, during, and after the pandemic.

Later in April, amid concerning reports of increased gender-based and domestic violence cases across Iraq, I met with the Parliamentary Women Caucus and advisors to the Prime Minister.

We discussed the much-needed steps to guarantee continued access to appropriate protection and support services, and to ensure that perpetrators cannot act with impunity.

Meanwhile, we welcomed the commitments made by the Head of the High Judicial Council affirming that there is no legal justification for domestic violence. We also noted that victims can now file complaints over the phone and obtain rapid police response.

Within this context, I would also like to commend the Government’s efforts towards the enactment of a law with the objective to protect all family members from domestic violence.

The efforts and interest of both the Prime Minister and the President are truly appreciated. We now look forward to the parliamentary deliberations under the leadership of the Speaker.

The passing of a law that aligns with the Iraqi Constitution, and adheres to international standards and norms, while also complementing Sharia Law, will be of great value.

Equally important is the understanding that the law aims to protect not only women and girls from domestic violence, but all vulnerable household members, including men, boys, the elderly, persons with disabilities and domestic workers.

In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to recall the words that gave birth to the United Nations 75 years ago, and which Iraqi delegates helped shape as founding members of the Organization.

Every day, we work, side by side “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women” and “to practice tolerance and live in peace with one another”.

These words ring as true today as they did in 1945. Let us honour them through our shared action to end violence against women, and indeed violence in all its forms.

Thank you.