A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.There is, of course, more.
The document's writers are also debating whether to drop or phase out a measure enshrined in the interim constitution, co-written last year by the Americans, requiring that women make up at least a quarter of the parliament.
The draft of a chapter of the new constitution obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday guarantees equal rights for women as long as those rights do not "violate Shariah," or Koranic law.
The Americans and secular Iraqis banished such explicit references to religious law from the interim constitution adopted early last year.
The draft chapter, circulated discreetly in recent days, has ignited outrage among women's groups, which held a protest on Tuesday morning in downtown Baghdad at the square where a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by American marines in April 2003.
One of the critical passages is in Article 14 of the chapter, a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.
Under that measure, Shiite women in Iraq, no matter what their age, generally could not marry without their families' permission. Under some interpretations of Shariah, men could attain a divorce simply by stating their intention three times in their wives' presence.
Article 14 would replace a body of Iraqi law that has for decades been considered one of the most progressive in the Middle East in protecting the rights of women, giving them the freedom to choose a husband and requiring divorce cases to be decided by a judge.
The interesting thing about this article to me is that the “liberation” of Iraq at our hands has in fact not liberated Iraqi women at all, but seems instead likely to roll back rights they have been guaranteed for decades. And if Americans had the foggiest idea of what made Iraqis different from Afghanis, for example, and what life was really like before the war for the average Iraqi, which, despite what you’d think if you listened to the American media and our government, consisted of (shockingly!) the full spectrum of human experience and more than just 24 hours a day of rape rooms and torture chambers, they’d be outraged about what is now happening to Iraqi women. But to be outraged about what they’ve lost, people would have to be aware of exactly what that is, and they don’t know, and they don’t care.
I’m honestly too pissed about this to write anything especially thoughtful.
The Heretik, however, has a great post and a round-up of women (and yes, so far it’s all women) who are blogging about this. Check it out.
(Crossposted at Shakespeare's Sister--and posted here in honor of Tami, one of many women who remind us all daily of the importance of giving women freedom and a voice.)