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January-16-04

Iraq's Governing Council Puts Family Law Under Islamic Law

The US-backed Iraqi Governing Council has outraged Iraqi women because of its recent vote to cancel current family laws and to place family law under the jurisdiction of Islamic (sharia) law. According to the Washington Post, Iraqi women denounced the decision at various protests and conferences. At one conference, entitled "The Importance of Women in Society," only three Iraqi male lawmakers met over 150 women concerned about the Governing Council's recent decision to not back their legal rights.

Moving these laws under Islamic law could create clashes between the various Islamic schools of thought regarding marriage, divorce, and other family issues. Zakia Ismael Hakki, a female judge, stated, "This new law will send Iraqi families back to the Middle Ages. It will allow men to have four or five or six wives. It will take away children from their mothers. It will allow anyone who calls himself a cleric to open an Islamic court in his house and decide who can marry and divorce and have rights," reports the Washington Post.

For the past forty years, Iraq's civil code had legal protections for women such as prohibiting marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce, and polygamy. According to Agence France Presse, Iraq's civil code in 1959 was at one point considered the most progressive in the Middle East.

The chief US administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has to approve decisions made by the council. He has not yet responded to requests for comments.

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Media Resources: Washington Post 01/16/04; Agence France Presses 01/15/04

   

     

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