UN calls for law to protect Iraqis against domestic violence

“The women and girls of Iraq deserve better.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) called on the Iraqi parliament to expedite the passage of legislation to combat surging domestic violence across the country amid a total lockdown put in place to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

A statement said that UN officials in Baghdad “express their concern at the rising number in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The report then outlined recent cases of recent gender-based violence that inspired public outrage, including the burning of one female allegedly carried out by her husband and the sexual assault of a disabled woman in disputed Kirkuk province reportedly perpetrated by a militiaman while another male, possibly a policeman, filmed the act.

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“Such crimes raise the alarm for the urgency to endorse the Anti-Domestic Violence Law in Iraq,” which, UNAMI said, “will help to ensure that perpetrators of gender-based violence in Iraq, such as those who carried out the heinous incidents seen in recent past, are held accountable.”

The lockdown measures taken by governments worldwide have raised alarms among rights groups about an apparent dramatic spike in rates of domestic violence in multiple nations. In Iraq, where there is limited accountability for crimes committed as a result of familial disputes, women are especially vulnerable as spouses are cooped up with a myriad of issues plaguing public life in the country, most notably, low living standards and security.

The Kurdistan Region, which makes its own legislation in addition to national laws, already has an anti-domestic violence law. Still, despite social awareness campaigns by international and local organizations and the regional government, human rights organizations say they are often poorly-implemented and violence against women persists at alarming rates.

“The UN in Iraq calls upon authorities to ensure that the judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers, invest more in hotline and online services, support the role of civil society organisations, keep shelter doors open for women fleeing abuse and punish perpetrators of any gender-based violence,” the statement concluded.

“Violence against women and girls is a crime and should not go unpunished. The women and girls of Iraq deserve better.” 

Editing by John J. Catherine