From Law to Action: Anti domestic violence law in Kurdistan
In August 2011, the Kurdistan region’s parliament passed the Law Against Domestic Violence in a bid to address the growing issue of violence against women. As an example of the extent of the problem, in the city and surrounding towns of Sulamaniyah, it is reported that honor killings of five women have taken place in 2012 along with eight cases of self-immolation. The law, the first of its kind in Iraq, defines domestic violence as any act, word or threat against members of a family that might lead to “physical, psychological or sexual damage and violating their rights and freedoms.” In addition to banning domestic violence and female circumcision, the new legislation considers the following acts as a crime: forceful marriage, preventing female education, hitting a child, nonconsensual divorce, offering of women to settle family feuds and female suicide, if the family is the cause. This law will be a vital tool for protecting women and raising awareness of domestic violence.
While the law itself was praised as a progressive approach to protecting the rights of children and minors, the reality of its success will depend on how the law is implemented by the judiciary. Prime Minister Barham Salih has issued a decree to establish four special anti-domestic violence courts in the three provinces of Kurdistan and the Garmiyan region south of Sulaimaniya.
In recognition of the need to raise understanding and awareness of the law, IREX, partnered with the Supreme Council of Women’s Affairs in Kurdistan, an entity of the regional government designed to address the political, economic, social and cultural rights of women in the region. They brought together judges, NGO activists, and government officials to discuss the law, its mandates, and methods of implementation. Rahim Al-Egily, a high-profile Iraqi judge who formerly led the High Integrity Commission of Iraq, led the sessions with an analysis of the law and its place in the Iraqi legal framework.
The Supreme Council for Women’s Affairs requested that the IREX materials for the workshop be distributed among courts in the Kurdistan Region, especially anti-domestic violence courts. Additionally, in recognition of the importance of Judge Al-Egily’s analysis of the law, the Council also requested that the Kurdistan Judicial Council have Al-Egily’s analysis distributed among judges in the region.
One participant, Judge Fariq Hama Salih Abdullah, from the Investigative Court of Rania, after the sessions explaining the law, urged the government to appoint female police officers for anti domestic violence courts, as demanded by the law. He also called for ongoing training for judges: “I think there should be more such workshops as the subject touches people’s lives directly.”
Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Women’s Affairs, agreed with Judge Abdullah’s remark and urged similar activities in order to raise public awareness about the law to pave the way for better implementation of its provisions and an improved understanding of the law among the public.