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Women’s rights – at election time and beyond

ASUDA women's project ASUDA, one of our most courageous Iraqi partners, provides safe shelters in northern Iraq for women at risk of violence, in many cases saving their lives, and also helps educate women about their human rights.

According to a UN report, the vast majority of women in Iraq face at least one form of domestic violence on a regular basis. 

More often than not this abuse was accepted and tolerated by the law as the Iraqi penal code permitted mitigated prison sentences if a murderer pleaded that he killed with ‘honourable motives’.

Ultimately this meant that men who kill their wives, sisters or daughters for a perceived insult to the family’s ‘honour’ could receive as little as six months in jail.

However, after lobbying from ASUDA and other women’s rights organisations, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) amended the law in 2002 to remove the ‘honourable motives’ clause.

2010 elections

Lobbying to change the law is important, but ASUDA also understands the vital role that educating women about their own rights plays.

Last year, ASUDA ran workshops for more than 600 women to raise awareness and understanding about the country's forthcoming elections.

The content of these workshops ranged from ‘providing basic information enabling qualified citizens to vote, including the date, time and place of voting’ – to the more complex ‘the link between basic human rights and voting rights... why each vote is important and its impact on public accountability; and how votes translate into seats’.

ASUDA director Khanim Rahim Latif says: ‘It is important for women to participate in the elections because unless they do they will not have their concerns represented at the political level. They must engage with the process so that the politicians know their problems.’

And as the candidates vied for votes, ASUDA also made violence against women an election issue.

Rahim Latif explains: ‘We lobbied for a new law against domestic violence as part of the election process.

‘We are asked all of the candidates and parties about their plans for protecting women from domestic violence, but not just domestic violence, about protecting their rights in all areas.’

Further content

• REACH for rights and representation – find out more about how REACH helped 400,000 poor farmers, and their hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future.

Iraq country page - find out more about Christian Aid's vital work in Iraq

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