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Bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq – but not for women


A banner saying “Stop the violence against Iraqi women” was carried at a Baghdad rally over constitutional issues as they affect women’s rights. (Adam Nadel/Polaris, for The New York Times)

Maybe it was a sign that Roberts has been nominated for SCOTUS. Since this guy would like to overturn Roe v. Wade, rolling back the clock with women here, why not emulate the draft Iraqi Constitution, which gives equal rights to women only IF they follow Sharia law. This is unbelievable. Billions of dollars, thousands of bombs, who knows how many deaths, and this is what it come to for to the women of Iraq. Have they not suffered enough?

How can Chimpy, Rove and Rumsfeld declare victory if women have fewer civil rights than they had under Saddam.

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. 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. If adopted, the shift away from the more secular and egalitarian provisions of the interim constitution would be a major victory for Shiite clerics and religious politicians, who chafed at the Americans’ insistence that Islam be designated in the interim constitution as just “a source” of legislation. Several writers of the new constitution say they intend, at the very least, to designate Islam as “a main source” of legislation.

…women’s groups are incensed by Article 14, which would repeal a relatively liberal personal status law enacted in 1959 after the British-backed monarchy was overthrown by secular military officers. That law remained in effect through the decades of Mr. Hussein’s rule.

The law used Shariah to adjudicate personal and family matters, but did it in as secular a manner as possible, pulling together the most liberal interpretations of Koranic law from the main Shiite and Sunni sects and stitching them together into one code.

Critics of the draft proposal say that in addition to restricting women’s rights, it could also deepen the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites. The draft also does not make clear what would happen in cases where the husband is from one sect and the wife from another.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding