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Women in Iraq - History and Current Status of Women in Iraq

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Information and history of the rights of women in Iraq

Compared to women in neighboring Middle Eastern countries, women in Iraq have many rights and abilities. They have equal pay and the opportunity to work, they are able to drive legally, they can uncover their heads, and they are allowed to serve in the army. Still, women in Iraq suffer from honor killings, human rights violations, torture and execution, and political repression.

... and their rights are slowly deteriorating...

History of Women in Iraq

In the 1920s and 1930's, women in Iraq began working and accepting positions in the job market. In 1970, the Iraqi constitution, under Saddam Hussein, declared all women and men equal before the law. The 1970s and early 1980s were years of economic growth in Iraq and state-induced policies were formed to eradicate illiteracy, educate women and incorporate them into the labor force. Labor at that time was scarce and the Iraqi government chose to tap into its own human resources and hire women. Women in Iraq became among the most educated and professional in the entire region, and working outside the home became the norm. Women could find and retain jobs, obtain higher education, and receive extensive medical coverage. A working Iraqi mother received five years of maternity leave. In 1980 women could vote and run for election.

After the 1991 Gulf War and economic embargos were applied, living conditions for women in Iraq began to deteriorate. The declining economy caused many women to lose their jobs and abandon their education. Girls and women today are now facing a major learning gap and there has been a sharp decline in adult female literacy. Many women in Iraq now focus all their efforts in search of food and clean water to ensure their family's survival. Some women have even resorted to prostitution to provide for their children and families.

Current Status of Women in Iraq

The movement for women in Iraw has greatly suffered due to sanctions and anti-women legislation imposed by Hussein's regime since the mid-90s. Under Islamic law, the punishment for a women who commits adultery is death. But women in Iraq are also being murdered for fighting with their husbands, having a relationship with a man outside marriage, and for being raped, because this brings shame on the family. Women have been stoned to death in public, disabled, disfigured and/or kidnapped. Women have even been kept hostage in their own homes.

According to the Iraq Foundation Web site "The rights of women in Iraq are going down the drain, along with everything else ... In 1998, Saddam ordered all women secretaries working in government agencies be dismissed. Now there are new laws barring women from work altogether."

Many women feel that once Saddam is removed from power, women's rights will return to Iraq. Recently a group of Iraqi women met in a Foreign Press Center Briefing to discuss Human Rights and Women in Iraq. Esra Naama stated "Saddam, right now, is terrorizing women, Iraqi women. He's using the excuse of infidelity. He's using the excuse of women being unfaithful to their husbands and the honor killing -- he's actually allowed honor killing to come back into society, where something that really, for a long time, was not in Iraqi society and I'm sure these ladies here can correct me if I'm wrong. But, once Saddam is gone, I believe that these are all things that will disappear from our society again."


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