Eleven women Senators sent a letter to President Bush yesterday expressing their concerns that the draft Iraqi constitution includes provisions that “may jeopardize the rights of Iraqi women.” Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Hillary R. Clinton (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) cited recent comments by the United States Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, that the United States will work to guarantee equality in the new constitution in urging Bush to “continue to express our support for a constitution that would maintain rights for women and equality for all Iraqis.”
Just two weeks ago, approximately 200 women staged a protest in Baghdad to demand full equality in the new constitution. Activists have also met with constitutional committee members to lobby for women’s rights. The current draft constitution would allow Islam to play an important role in the making of civil law. While Shiite Muslim leaders are promoting a larger role for Islam, women’s rights groups express concerns about provisions that would take away rights they already enjoy, including inheritance and divorce rights for women. Iraqi activist Hanaa Edwar said, “We are a pluralistic society and this constitution will determine our future. It is crucial for us. We cannot allow it to move us backwards and make a mockery of conventions that Iraq has signed on human rights,” reports BBC News.
In her statement about the letter to Bush, Senator Barbara Mikulski said, “Iraqi women make up 65 percent of Iraq’s population and will play a vital role in its reconstruction. We cannot allow them to be left behind as Iraq begins to rebuild and transition to democracy.”