Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination in Iraq

Topics: Domestic violence, Women's rights, Violence against women Pages: 14 (5000 words) Published: January 10, 2013
Iraqi women and girls face extraordinarily high levels of cultural and institutional violence and discrimination. Women who are perceived to have dishonored their families – for allegedly or actually committing adultery, refusing an arranged marriage, or asking for a divorce, among other reasons – may be threatened with honor killing. Iraq's legal system institutionalizes gender-based violence and discrimination through criminal laws that condone male violence while punishing women who transgress cultural norms, and through laws that are either discriminatory or are harmful to women in their implementation. Throughout Iraq, there are no programs to deliver legal services with a gender-focused approach, and women in the family court system do not have access to lawyers who will advocate for them by presenting facts and legal theories that account for their experiences as victims of gender-based violence. Female detainees suffer abuse in Iraqi detention centers, including rape, violence and verbal abuse, as well as unmet basic needs such as medical care, clothing and sometimes food. Criminal arrest and detention places victims at risk of further abuse or being killed by their families upon release for dishonoring the family, and detention centers sometimes end up serving as protective shelters to prevent families from killing women and girls at risk of honor killing. While in detention, conditions are not monitored, just as there is no regular trial observation and monitoring of implementation of discriminatory laws and legal procedures toward women in either the criminal justice or family court system. On a broader level, ethnic and sectarian conflict marginalizes women and further limits their capacity to function in public roles, as economic actors, decision makers and professionals. Although women often function as mediators in social networks, their participation in formal peace-building efforts is usually minimized or non-existent. Summary

Heartland Alliance is working with Iraqi NGOs in six governorates in the south, center and north of Iraq to provide direct legal, social mediation and medical services to victims of gender-based violence in the criminal justice system and the family court system. In addition to providing direct services from a gender-sensitive approach, Heartland Alliance's partner organizations are monitoring the detention conditions for female detainees, as well as how the laws and court procedures impact victims.  Heartland Alliance is working with its partner organizations to document and report on findings and experiences providing legal representation to push for legislative and policy changes to improve protections for victims of gender-based violence. Additionally, Heartland Alliance is implementing a media campaign designed to reduce gender-based violence. Activities

Heartland Alliance aims to reduce legally sanctioned and institutional violence against Iraqi women and girls by: * Training NGOs throughout Iraq to provide gender-focused legal, social and medical services to victims of gender-based violence in Iraq's criminal justice system, family court systems, or those who face imminent risk of honor killing or violence; * Improving government response to victims of gender-based violence by monitoring, documentation and reporting on gender-related and other abuses in the criminal justice and family court systems, including detention centers; * Raising awareness among stakeholders in the government, civil society and community about the intersection between gender-based violence in Iraq and the Iraqi legal system through media and community education, including television programming and outreach initiatives in partnership with NGOs and rural health care workers; * Expanding the use of traditional mediation techniques in preventing violence and mitigating conflict, including both gender-based violence and ethno-sectarian violence....
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