UN Report Highlights Violence Against Women in Iraq as Normal Activity

Published November 28th, 2018 - 09:37 GMT
Women whose husbands or fathers have been killed or gone missing are vulnerable to forced marriages, destitution and violence, aid workers say (AFP)
Women whose husbands or fathers have been killed or gone missing are vulnerable to forced marriages, destitution and violence, aid workers say (AFP)

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNICEF has called for the end for violence against women and girls in Iraq. The call comes amid estimates indicating that the fate of 2000 Yazidi women and girls is still unknown after being kidnapped by ISIS during its control over Sinjar province in Nineveh late 2014.

Despite the exceptional and unprecedented disaster experienced by Yazidi women, the challenges that faced other Iraqi women were not easier, mainly those caused by long wars and violence that dominated the country over the past decade, and their consequences on the life of women, including continuous insecurity, poverty, and losses of husbands, sons, and family providers.

A UNICEF report talked about unofficial figures indicating that hundreds of thousands of women in the country are widowed, along with many cases of violence against women in houses and streets. According to the report, in Iraq, women and girls from different backgrounds remain at risk of violence, in their homes, at school and in public spaces.

The report also highlights a recent joint survey by the Government of Iraq and UNICEF, showing that 37% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 in Iraq think that violence towards women is acceptable. It also mentions a new UNFPA study that shows that 63% of Gender Based Violence incidents in the country are perpetrated by a family member.

The report cites Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Iraq, who said: "Violence towards women and girls is a violation of human rights and has a devastating impact on their health, well-being, and their futures. It can never be justified. Women and girls make up half of the population in Iraq and they have a right to live free from fear and violence and be free to fulfill their fullest potential."

The report also quotes Dr. Oluremi Sognuro, UNFPA representative to Iraq, who said: “Ending violence against women and girls is not a choice, it is rather a long-term commitment and should become part and parcel of Iraqi society through joint efforts from all of us."

According to the report, in areas of displacement and return, threats and risks of violence against women and girls are higher particularly sexual violence and exploitation, harassment and child marriage. In Iraq, girls as young as 12 years old are being married off.

"The fate of more than 2,000 Yazidi women and girls kidnapped by ISIS is still unknown," said Nazik Barakat, a Yazidi activist. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which coincided on Monday, the Emma Association for Human Development organized many events and activities as part of the 16-day anti-violence campaign. Nazik Barakat, the Sinjar born activist, told Asharq Al-Awsat that "a group of Yazidi girls from a refugee camp in Zakho district, Dahuk province, Kurdistan, participated in various events on the occasion."

According to Barakat, activities included "raising slogans calling for the end of violence and gender equality, and a play on gender-based violence in the presence of the camp administration and staff from the Norwegian People's Aid, the organization's partner in this program."

Some Yazidi girls wore orange to symbolize freedom and cheered "Life is sweet in the color of women". "The activities of the first day ended with a march inside the camp amidst the cheers of participants denouncing violence against women, and calling for respect and empowerment," she said. The Yazidi activist expected that the activities on this international day will run for more than two weeks in the province of Dohuk, and the rest of the Yazidi regions.

On the other hand, the Supreme Judicial Council issued Monday, October's statistics of divorce and marriage cases in Iraq. It showed that the number of marriages in all over Iraq amounted to 10,866, while external divorces and separation under a court decision hit 4130 and 1611 cases respectively.

 This article has been adapted from its original source.

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