At a Congressional briefing yesterday, Iraqi women and female members of Congress called for equal rights under the law, increased women’s political participation, and the separation of church and state in Iraq. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sponsored the briefing with several female members of Congress; the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), whose Global Task Force is co-chaired by the Feminist Majority and Women’s Environment and Development Organization; and several prominent Iraqi women’s rights activists.
According to Dr. Lamya Alarif, Iraq has always had a separation of church and state and “the imposition of religion into state is a foreign doctrine [that will] roll back women into the stone age.” The US-backed Iraqi Governing Council recently passed Resolution 137 that puts current family law under sharia (Islamic) law. Alarif stated that she is “surprised and saddened that [Resolution 137] was even contemplated because it will lead to the destruction of the fabric of Iraqi society.”
In addition, Congresswoman Maloney and the Iraqi women raised their concerns regarding the current draft of the interim Constitution and whether the equal rights provisions that may be in the interim Constitution would be overturned when the United States hands sovereignty over to Iraq on July 1. Zakia Haki, the first female Iraqi judge, stated that there “will never be equal rights in Iraq without a Constitution that guarantees equal rights” and that the Central Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Governing Council need to work to guarantee these rights. There are currently no women on the 25-member constitutional committee and the draft constitution is to be presented on February 28.
Martha Burk, chair of the NCWO, asserted that US-based women’s organizations support the work the Congresswomen are doing in promoting Iraqi women’s rights. She said, “We don’t need to be talking about granting women their rights. We need to preserve them.”
Both Congresswomen Maloney and Eddie Bernice Johnson recently submitted resolutions regarding Iraqi women’s rights to safeguard and advance the rights of Iraqi women.