Iraq Constitution Could be Setback for Women's Rights
Women's groups in Iraq held protests on Tuesday over draft language in the new Iraqi constitution that threatens to severely limit women's rights. Provisions currently being considered include putting family law, which covers marriage, divorce and inheritance, under the jurisdiction of religious courts, according to the New York Times. In addition, the individual family’s sect or religion would determine the law that would be applied in each case, leaving women in more restrictive, stricter sects the most vulnerable.
Also being considered is the elimination of the provision in the interim constitution requiring that women hold at least 25 percent of the seats in the National Assembly, according to the LA Times. Iraqi women worked hard to achieve this requirement, and 31 percent of the National Assembly seats are currently held by women. There is concern that, without the requirement, their numbers would drop significantly.
The draft document guarantees equal rights for women as long as those rights do not violate sharia law. Previously, Iraq was governed by family laws enacted in 1959, which were among the most liberal in the Middle East. Yanar Mohammed, head of the Women's Freedom in Iraq Movement, said, "We reject the changes prepared on the 1959 law because some Islamic parties want to kidnap the rights of women in Iraq. We reject such attempts because women should be full citizens with full rights, not semi-human beings," according to the Associated Press.
The interim constitution did not include language using Islam as a source of law, but the drafts have referred to sharia as a “main source” of law and attempted to clearly define Iraq as a Muslim country. These changes are similar to those made in the Afghanistan’s constitution, which states that "in Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam." In both countries, this type of language and dependence on religious courts leaves human rights and women's rights vulnerable to extremist interpretations of Islam.
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. . . .