Law Enforcement Fails to Respond to Reports of Rape and Abduction in Iraq
Widespread reports of abduction and rape of women in Iraq have been met with disinterest from Iraqi and US authorities, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports in a study released today. Based on more than 70 interviews with officials, victims and their families, the report found 25 credible reports of abduction and sexual assault in Baghdad since the war ended. Along with continued reports of looting, extremism and other acts of violence, this climate of chaos is forcing women to stay in their homes in increasing numbers, HRW reports.
"Women and girls today in Baghdad are scared, and many are not going to schools or jobs or looking for work," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "If Iraqi women are to participate in postwar society, their physical security needs to be an urgent priority."
Iraqi police officers "did not appear to recognize, or purposefully downplayed, the seriousness of allegations of sexual violence or abductions," according to the report. With no female police officers in Iraq, women have generally been made to believe by male officers that they provoked attacks, according to HRW. In addition, US military police have failed to follow up with sexual violence complaints. The inattention from authorities is compounded by cultural traditions in Iraq that dictate that families blame victims for sexual assault - sometimes leading to incidents of honor killings. "For a woman's family, all this is worse than death," Dr. Khulud Younis, a gynecologist at the Alwiyah Women's Hospital told the Times. "They will face shame. If the woman has a sister, her future will be gone. These women don't deserve to be treated like this."
HRW urged Iraqi and US military authorities to implement urgently needed legal reforms, law enforcement training, and health and support services for women. "The US should deploy a special investigative unit to investigate sex-based and trafficking crimes against women and girls, until such time as the Iraqi police can take up responsibility for it," HRW wrote in a press release.
Media Resources: Human Rights Watch Press Release 7/16/03; HRW Report Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad 7/03; New York Times 7/16/03; Associated Press 7/16/03
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .