Baghdad: After a day’s work in the Iraqi public sector, Azhar provides legal assistance to women who are victims of domestic violence. This is what she knows well from her experience with her brutal husband. After she was forced to marry by family pressure, 56-year-old Azhar fought in court for almost a decade to divorce the man who beat her. “I believed I would die,” she said, remembering one attack and showing pictures of purple bruises on her arms and legs. “It was the moment I decided to break my chain.”
She eventually won her freedom, and the trials urged her to study law. “I felt weak in the face of the judicial system,” recalls Azhar, who provides legal assistance to victims of violence and heads a non-governmental organization that is part of the Iraqi Women’s Network Union. “I help women who are victims of violence or in need of legal assistance so that they can recognize their rights and protect themselves,” she said. rice field.
From underage marriage to financial coercion, feminists and lawyers are struggling to protect women’s rights in an overwhelming patriarchal country. They cite regressive law and indifference of authorities as major obstacles. General Saad Maan, a media source, said about 17,000 domestic violence complaints were registered by the Interior Ministry’s Family Protection Department in 2021 in 40 million countries.
According to a government survey, underage marriages are on the rise in Iraq. For women under the age of 18, it jumped to 25.5% last year, up from 21.7% in 2011. Azhar, who did not want her name to be revealed for security reasons, was about 20 years old when she first got married. However, she soon became a widow and was forced to marry again seven years later. She eventually left her abusive second husband with her eight children and applied for a divorce.
She said the first judge knew the man and refused the request, despite three medical certificates proving her injury. “‘I will not disband my family based on the certificate,'” she recalled the judge who told her. “So what if a man hits his wife?” She quoted him. In the case of domestic violence, judges often demand a “reconciliation,” said Brigadier General Ali Mohammed, head of the family protection unit.
But “it’s the victims who pay the price,” said Hanaa Edwarda, who headed the Al-Amal organization and worked as an advocate for 50 years. “The judicial system’s consideration of cases involving women is much weaker than macho, which controls the minds of judges.” Iraq has no specific law dealing with violence against women, and the 1969 criminal law states: Contains articles that allow rapists to be exempt from punishment if they agree to marry the victim.
Rights groups have sought parliamentary approval of the bill on domestic violence, which has been thwarted by Islamic parties since 2010. An important provision of the bill is the creation of shelters for victims of domestic violence, said lawyer Marwa Eleoui. Mobilizing public opinion is often the only way to move forward and minimize victory in Iraq, as in the case of Mariam16.
After her family spurred his marriage offer, a teenager broke into her house and was hurt by a man who sprayed her with acid, the media said her parents said. .. Mariam’s story struck a chord with the whole country when it was reported by Iraqi media in December, seven months after the acid attack. Authorities say two suspects were arrested for assault.
“Without media pressure, Mariam’s proceedings would have taken two years to come to court,” Eleoui said. In northern Kirkuk, Lina was one of the young women whose lifeline was the Al-Amal organization. At the age of only 13, she married a man who, contrary to her will, said she was violent. “I was 25 when I told myself that it was enough,” she said. “He hit me in a way I couldn’t explain.”
When she complained, her husband and her father eagerly tried to avoid a social scandal and tried to get a certificate from a doctor saying she was mentally unstable. “The doctor saw the bruise and contacted me with the association,” said Lina, who uses a pseudonym for fear of her safety. Now she is working with Ar Amal to call home to talk to women about their rights. “Leaving the courtroom after a divorce was like leaving a prison,” she said. – AFP
https://news.kuwaittimes.net/website/iraqi-women-battle-abuse/ Iraqi Women Fight Abuse-Kuwait Times