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Iraq: Iraqi Constitution Must Not Erode Women’s Rights

Iraq’s permanent constitution should not erode the rights of women, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the chairman of the constitutional drafting committee. The committee is due to transfer the draft constitution to the Iraqi National Assembly by August 15 for debate and approval.

“Members of the drafting committee will have to decide whether to protect women’s rights or erode them for political gain,” said Janet Walsh, acting Women’s Rights director at Human Rights Watch. “We strongly urge them to make the right choice and to advance basic rights for women.”

Iraq’s interim constitution, also known as the Temporary Administrative Law, contained an equal protection clause guaranteeing all Iraqi citizens the equal protection of the law as well as a provision granting Iraqi women a substantial number of seats in parliament.

Human Rights Watch said that it is vital that these important guarantees not be rolled back in the new permanent constitution now being drafted.

“The interim constitution is not a perfect document," said Walsh. “It failed explicitly to guarantee women equal rights in the family and in society more broadly, but members of the drafting committee now have a chance to ensure that these guarantees are spelled out in the new constitution."

Human Rights Watch said that the permanent constitution should provide guarantees that women will have equal rights to marry, within marriage, and at its dissolution, and to inherit on an equal basis with men. Women should also have the right to transfer citizenship to their children and fully participate in political and public life.

“The constitution will serve as the foundation for human rights in a new Iraq," said Walsh. “Women must be equal beneficiaries of this process."

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