Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Should husbands should be able to punish their wives?

"Husbands should be able to punish their wives, providing that they leave no mark of injury." This is only one of the proposed guidelines for the "new Democracy" for Iraq touted by President Bush. In other proposals for the new Iraqi Constitution women's rights will be defined by Taliban-style rules.
  • Rape, acid attacks and violence are OK to ensure women wear the veil
  • Polygamy entirely at husband's choice
  • Ditto divorce (husband merely declares it)
  • Honor killings
  • Adultery deserves stoning or beheading
Democracy cannot coalesce safely amidst the turmoil of foreign occupation, violent social unrest, marked civic disruption and intimidation by religious extremists. The US-led destruction of the previous governmental structure has reopened opportunities for oppression of women. The rights and welfare of 13 million women are being sacrificed as collateral damage in the rush to establish a face-saving Constitution.

Disenfranchisement will be preserved, but transferred: instead of shutting out the Shi'ite majority, the replacement Constitution will disempower the female majority.

And majority it is, since Iraqi men have been disproportionally killed over the past 30 years. Sixty percent of women are widows who are now heading households and facing sole responsibility for raising the next generation and caring for the wounded, sick, elderly and traumatised. The many women who became educated professionals under the once US-supported secular "axis of evil" may soon be unable to gather to defend their rights or prevent deterioration of their country into a chaotic civil war.

The Iraqi constitutional crisis is described in an excellent article by attorney Margaret Owen, founder of Widows' Rights International.

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