The Justice Defenders Program worked with members of Iraqi Parliament and Civil Society in order to strengthen domestic violence legislation under review in Iraq. Our Staff Attorney for the Middle East and North Africa sat down with Dr. Ibtisam Aziz Ali and Suhailah Al-Asadi to discuss their work on women's rights in Iraq.
With very little legal protection afforded to victims of domestic and sexual violence, women’s rights advocates in Iraq have had to work in secret in order to protect victims of abuse. Activists have established private shelters, shielded from state and religious militias, many of whom target victims of violence and defenders who strive to protect them.
In 2015, Iraqi Parliament introduced draft legislation on the Protection Against Domestic Violence. The bill offered key provisions for victims of violence such as restraining orders and penalties for violations, targeted services and the creation of a cross ministry committee to address domestic abuse.
However, the draft bill exposed several gaps in protection services for victims, including a clause on mandatory family reconciliation, with women’s rights advocates denouncing the bill’s true intentions as promoting social norms over justice.
Dr. Ibtisam Aziz Ali, Director of Parliament’s Women’s Empowerment Directorate, asked the ABA Justice Defenders to analyze the proposed Domestic Violence legislation in order to bring it in line with international standards on women’s rights. Working in coalition with women’s rights NGOs, both in Iraq and internationally, the Program identified several key gaps in victim protection and offered recommendations to strengthen the overall proposed law.
In order to generate widespread support for our recommendations to the bill, experienced women’s rights lawyer and Program Consultant, Suhailah Al-Asadi engaged directly with relevant Iraqi government groups, Iraqi Parliament, the judicial authority, and civil society to work with the Program on editing the bill and conveying the Program’s key comments. Dr. Aziz Ali, recently informed the Program that several of our recommendations have been incorporated into the revised version of the legislation which is currently being circulated within Parliament.