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Population size and demographic: 42.6 million. 49.8% of the population is female and 50.2% is male.

Women at Work:

The female labour force participation in Iraq is 13%, drastically lower than men’s 75.5% rate. Unemployment stands at 31.07% for women. About 21.8% of all legislators, senior officials and managers are women and 30.1% of all professional and technical workers are women. Only 2.3% of all firms have female top managers. Out of all employed women, 26.15% work part-time (1). Women make up 56% of all workers in the Ministry of Education, and 52% of workers in the Ministry of Finance, while only making up 2% of all workers in the Ministry of Interior and only 12% in the Ministry of Justice (2). When it comes to the wage gap, 49% of women working in the private sector report unequal wages, while this number is 32% for women working in the public sector (3).

Women’s Participation in Parliament:

When it comes to political empowerment, Iraq ranks 118 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2020 (1). Women gained the right to vote in Iraq in 1948 (4). Women hold 28.88% of the seats in the Council of Representatives of Iraq, meaning that 95 out of the 329 total number of members are women. The youngest member of parliament is a woman, 31-year-old Amina Saeed Sido. There is an electoral quota in place which reserves 82 seats for women. The first woman in parliament was elected in 1980 and there is a specialized body focusing on women’s rights, the Women Parliamentary Caucus (5).

Violence against Women:

The rate of child marriage in Iraq is 24% for girls under 18 and 5% for girls under 15. During the conflict in Iraq, which started in 2003, rape, slavery and forced marriage were seen as weapons of war (6). The FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) rate is 7.4% of all girls and women aged 15 to 49 years (7). It is estimated that around 1.3 million people in Iraq are at risk to experience some form of gender-based violence and over 75% are women and young girls (8). According to 2021 statistics, 22% of women had suffered economic violence at the hands of their husbands, 12% had suffered verbal abuse and 3.6% had experienced physical violence (8). Honour killings are a problem in Iraq, with many cases reported in the last few years, such as the killing of Nurzan al-Shammari in Baghdad in 2021 by her brother and cousins due to her refusal to marry her cousin, or the death of a young Kurdish woman, also in 2021, killed by her brothers for planning to divorce her husband (9). Marital rape is not criminalized in Iraq (10).


When it comes to health and survival, Iraq ranks 76 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2020. The healthy life expectancy for women in Iraq is 60.6 years. Maternal mortality rate stands at 79 deaths per 100,000 live births and 95.6% of births were attended by skilled personnel in 2020. About 55% of pregnant women between 15 and 49 years of age had antenatal care of at least four visits (1). Adolescent fertility rate stands at 72 per 1000 girls aged 15 to 19 years (2).


When it comes to educational attainment, Iraq ranks 144 out of 153 countries. The literacy rate is low for both men and women, with 44% of women being literate and 56.2% of men. The rate of enrolment in primary education for women is 86.9%, which drops drastically to 40.3% for secondary school and 12% for tertiary education. (1)

Current Law and Policy:

There is a lack of accountability mechanisms in place for perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. The current draft Family Protection Law is designed to protect family as a whole rather than the victim. It prioritises reconciliation and mediation rather than justice for the abused victims which can put victims at further danger of being forced to return. The Iraq Penal Code no.111 of 1969 includes provisions on physical assault but lacks explicit reference to domestic violence. The Penal Code Article 14 – permits domestic violence allowing the punishment of a wife by her husband within certain limits prescribed by custom or law.

UN urges Iraqi Parliament to speed up the endorsement of the anti-domestic violence law. Alarming reports of a rise in gender-based and domestic violence cases, especially with increased household tensions due to COVID confinement. Reports of the rape of a woman with special needs, spousal abuse, immolation and self-immolation. Self-inflicted injuries due to spousal abuse, sexual harassment of minors and suicide due to DA. Calls upon authorities to ensure judicial systems continue to prosecute abusers, invest more in hotline and online services, support civil society organisations, keep shelter doors open and punish perpetrators. Asked to prioritise. (12)

Report on Human Rights in Iraq January to June 2017. UNAMI and UN Human Rights (13) sets out:

· Page x/11 – no accountability mechanisms in place for perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. Lack of movement in Council of Representatives to push through domestic violence legislation in accordance with international human rights standards and norms. 

· Draft law remains stalled in Parliament and fails to offer long-term protection for victims, penalise offenders or establish obligations for police and prosecutors to respond to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE incidents. 

· Page viii – calls for Kurdistan government to strengthen the capacity of police, judges and prosecutors to ensure cases of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE are handled in an appropriate and sensitive manner that prioritises victims' safety. 

· Page 12 – current draft law ‘Family Protection Law’ is designed to protect the family as a whole rather than the victim of domestic violence. 

· Iraq’s penal code no.111 of 1969 – includes provisions on physical assault but lacks explicit reference to domestic violence. Article 41 Penal Code – permits DOMESTIC VIOLENCE by allowing the punishment of a wife by her husband within certain limits prescribed by law or custom. 

Commentary on the draft law on domestic violence in Iraq, Human Rights Watch: (14)

· One in five women are subject to physical domestic violence – Iraq Family Health Survey. 

· Iraqi constitution expressly prohibits all forms of violence and abuse in the family but only the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has a law on domestic violence. 

· Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (which Iraq ratified – 1986) considers violence against women a form of gender-based discrimination. Called on state parties to pass violence against women legislation. 

Human Rights Watch, domestic violence in Iraq, Commentary on the Draft Law on Anti-Domestic Violence in Iraq 2017: (15)

· Page 3 – References only material or moral damage – UN recommends physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence be included in the definition. 

· Page 4 – draft law defines domestic violence as within the family, that being a group of persons related to each other by matrimony or relatives till the fourth stage, in addition to those subject to custody or guardianship or curatorship. Does not include those in an intimate relationship who are not married. 

· Article 1 of draft law refers to the crime of domestic violence but does not provide specific penalties. 

· Page 7 – draft law prioritises reconciliation over protection and justice for abused victims. Fails to adequately protect victims, punish perpetrators and ensure access to proper redress. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE considered a private matter in Iraq. UN calls for mediation to be prohibited in all cases of violence against women, at all stages of legal proceedings. 

· Page 8 – critical omission in not referring to police officers or outlining concrete duties for police officers in responding to cases of violence against women. Article 9 of draft law – may submit complaints. Need clarify that the responsibility for prosecuting domestic violence lies with prosecution authorities, not survivors, and set minimum standards for what prosecutors must communicate to survivors. 

· Page 12 – not currently possible under draft law for victim testimony alone to be used as evidence to prosecute on. 

· Page 13 – draft law provides for protection orders as a legal remedy but does not distinguish between short term emergency protection orders and longer-term orders. 

· Page 14 – concern is the accessibility of competent authorities to issue timely protection orders. 

· Page 19 – draft law commits authorities to set up shelters for domestic violence survivors.

Naji of the Women for Peace Organisation said there is no adequate system to be monitoring the potential escalation of domestic violence cases (in COVID) because they aren’t being reported. (16)

Frontline Services:

· MADRE (International Women’s Human Rights Org) - -

· Women Empowerment Organization - -

· RASAN Organisation - -

· Gender Studies Organization (GSIO) - -


(15) violence_formatted_memorandum_final_english.pdf

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