At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) raised concerns that Iraqi women will lose their rights under the new constitution and that Islamic (sharia) law will be reinstated. Boxer also asserted that it would be a tragedy for Iraqi women if they have less rights under the US-backed Iraqi regime than under Saddam Hussein’s horrific regime.
In response to Boxer’s concerns, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that the mission in Iraq would not be successful if women’s rights were lost, and that the United States is intent on women having full and equal rights under the Iraqi constitution. However, the Bush Administration has still not used its authority to overturn the Governing Council’s vote to cancel current family laws and to place family law under the jurisdiction of sharia law.
For the past forty years, Iraq’s civil code has had legal protections for women. For example, it prohibited marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce, and polygamy. Women’s rights advocates argue that moving these laws under Islamic law will destroy the status of Iraqi women’s rights regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody rights.