Iraqi women to push for anti-domestic violence bill in Baghdad march

The country’s criminal code outlaws violence within the family but there is no specific law on tackling domestic abuse.

An Iraqi woman walks through a clothes market in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, ahead of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, as some lockdown restrictions imposed during the novel coronavirus pandemic have been eased by the authorities. (Photo by Hussein FALEH / AFP)
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Iraqi women are set to take to the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday to urge Parliament to pass an anti-domestic violence bill that will end decades of abuse and achieve social justice.

The country’s criminal code outlaws violence within the family but there is no specific law on tackling domestic abuse.

It does not stipulate penalties for perpetrators.

"Today, as Iraqi women, we will go out in solidarity with those who have endured violence and abuse not only in the country but all over the world, whether it's at work, domestically or electronically," Suhalia Al Assam, a women's rights activist and member of the Iraqi women's league, told The National.

The passing of the draft law will not only protect women but the Iraqi society, she said.

The association is pushing for the endorsement of the law to ensure that perpetrators of gender-based violence in Iraq, such as those who carried out the heinous incidents seen in the recent past, are held accountable, she said.

“Violence against women must stop immediately,” Ms Al Assam said, adding that crimes against them should not go unpunished.

Bringing the draft law back to Parliament should be a priority for Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi’s government, she said.

Demands have stepped up for the law to be passed following the highly publicised case of Malak Al Zubaidi, who died from being set alight in March after an alleged attack by her husband.

It is not clear if she was murdered, or if she set herself on fire.

Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission told The National that in recent months there has been an increase in the level of female suicides that is linked to domestic violence especially after a high percentage of women have reported such cases.

One in five Iraqi women has experienced physical violence, according to a survey conducted by the health ministry in 2007.

The first draft of the stalled domestic violence bill was amended after being rejected in 2015 by conservative members of the previous parliament who said it infringed on Islamic values.

The domestic violence bill stalled again last year and again this year when the previous governments resigned, leaving legislation in limbo.

“The draft law has not passed because of the lack of awareness about the importance of such a bill and not giving it the priority in the legislative work,” Mr Al Bayati said.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh said he is committed to preventing violence against women and will make it a “priority in Covid-19 national response, recovery plans.”