IRAQ: Iraqi Women Suffer Regular Domestic Violence - UN

The vast majority of Iraqi women face domestic violence on a regular basis and many commit suicide because of it, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Iraq and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan should take measures to stop violence against women, including honour killings and genital mutilation, the UN mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, said in a regular report on human rights.

"The sensitivity of Iraqi communities to issues concerning women is such that families are frequently not reporting to the authorities incidents of violence against women," it said.

To "escape the cycle of violence", many women turned to suicide.

Iraq should "investigate incidents involving gender-based violence, in particular the so-called 'honour crimes' perpetrated against women, and take measures to ensure that persons found responsible for committing these crimes are held accountable and brought to justice", UNAMI said.

UNAMI said it was concerned about threats against women because of the way they dressed, and it repeated a statement from November that women were threatened by rape, sex trafficking, forced and early marriages, murder and abduction. The 2003 U.S.-led invasion triggered a ferocious Sunni Islamist insurgency and sectarian bloodletting between once dominant Sunnis and majority Shi'ites. Religious extremists filled a vacuum of lawlessness, imposing conservative policies that were particularly intolerant of women's rights.

The violence has fallen sharply and, as extremists retreated, their influence waned.


The U.N. report, which covered the second half of 2008, said it paid special attention to the plight of women in Kurdistan, an area where ethnic Kurds, who are mostly Muslims, have enjoyed virtual independence since the end of the first Gulf War.

It said 139 cases of gender-based violence were recorded in the second half of the year in Kurdistan, which comprises three of Iraq's 18 provinces.

"Out of the total number, 77 women were seriously burned, 26 were victims of murder or attempted murder and 25 were cases of questionable suicide," the report said.

A total of 163 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in Kurdistan in 2009, compared to 166 in 2007.

Honour killings were a significant concern, it said.

The report cited an example of a father who shot and killed his 16- and 22-year-old daughters when he found out one of them was having a relationship. The father was not arrested.

The report expressed concern about female genital mutilation in Kurdistan, where many people think it is harmless and required by Islam. Some efforts were being made to address the problem, including the possibility of a law to make it illegal.

Still, a survey in the last quarter of 2008 by a German organisation found 98 percent of women in 54 villages in one area had undergone genital mutilation, the report said. (Reporting by Michael Christie; Editing by Robert Woodward)

SOURCE: Reuters AlertNet

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DATE: 12/05/2009

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