Iraqi women score victory
Baghdad - Iraqi women have won a historic victory in a Muslim country after they convinced lawmakers to reject a bid to turn the clock back on their rights by scrapping an established family law.
The women also want at least a 40% stake in the country's evolving political power, which will be enshrined in the transitional law under discussion, said Jamil al-Jawahiri, speaking for Iraqi al-Amal Association, one of the groups leading the campaign for greater women's rights in Iraq.
Successful lobbying by the heads of 17 Iraqi women's groups at a meeting on Thursday prompted 15 council members to repeal a proposal to scrap Iraq's 1959 family affairs code - considered among the most progressive in the Middle East - and place it under Muslim religious jurisdiction, Jawahiri told reporters. A good day
"It is a good day for everyone, not just for women," he said. "Women have shown they can get what they want by being organised and good lobbiers and not through using violence."
Jinan al-Obaidi, in charge of women's affairs for the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's main political party, was not so pleased.
"The repeal is a great loss for the Iraqi society because it gives freedom to all religious communities," she said.
Makes polygamy difficult
Last December, the US-picked Governing Council voted to ditch the law, which makes polygamy difficult and guarantees women's custody rights in the case of divorce, but the decision was not approved by US overseer Paul Bremer and did not take effect.
The proposal contained "articles that suppress social development and the progress of women", said female Shi'ite council member Raja al-Khouzai.
But SCIRI's Obaidi disagreed, arguing that it was important to be ruled under the same Islamic principles rather than by a secular civil code.
"We will not let this issue drop," she declared. "We will ask the governing council to reconsider."
On the question of female-representation in the transitional Iraqi government that will take power from the US-led coalition after June 30, it appeared unlikely the women's 40% demand would be met.
The rights of women - who make up more than half of Iraq's population - along with federalism and Islamic law are the main stumbling blocks for the Governing Council to negotiate before completing the temporary law, which is aimed at seeing Iraq through a period of transition.
Many women in Baghdad, however, appeared resigned to a life with fewer rights than men, as was the case before and during Saddam's time.
"We have never had rights, not now and not under Saddam," said Dania Edwa, 24, a student in the capital. "I have heard about the work women's groups are doing but I do not see any real improvements."
Edited by Trisha Shannon
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