Ms Khanim Rahim Latif, Director of Asuda, Ceasefire’s partner NGO in Iraq, briefed the UN Security Council this month on the widespread violence faced by women throughout Iraq, including the targeting of women human rights defenders.
Speaking in New York on 18 May to the Security Council under the Swiss presidency, Ms Latif said: ‘The alarming levels of violence against women across the country increased to over 22,000 cases between 2020 and 2021. This sharp increase in gender-based violence is occurring against a backdrop of impunity for perpetrators and lack of access to services, legal protection and justice for survivors.’
She went on to say: ‘Without protection from violence and freedom from discrimination, women cannot engage fully or equally on the political, social and economic levels. UN Security Council resolutions on ‘Women, Peace and Security’ have for more than 20 years emphasized the important linkages between protection and participation. For women to have a voice in determining their country’s future, the violence must end.’
Ms Latif is the Director of Asuda for Combating Violence against Women, an Iraqi NGO that has worked for decades to empower women’s participation, oppose all forms of gender-based violence and support vulnerable women including survivors, IDPs, refugees and female-headed households. Ceasefire has worked with Asuda since 2015 on supporting documentation of violations of the rights of women and girls, particularly in conflict-hit governorates, training for women human rights defenders and on promoting policy reform including formulation of the new Yazidi Survivors’ Law.
National measures advocated by Ms Latif to protect girls and women and to support access to justice included adopting the long overdue draft anti-domestic violence law, amending the Penal Code, and preventing the interpretation of the personal status law on sectarian grounds. She also called for robust access to shelters for women fleeing domestic violence, and full implementation of the Yazidi Survivors’ Law passed in March 2021.
As the Security Council considered the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Ms Latif also had recommendations for the mission, emphasizing that UNAMI should ‘monitor and report on any violations or retaliation against women human rights defenders and civil society leaders. UNAMI should also prioritize regularly engaging with civil society to ensure their views inform its work throughout the country.’
Ms Latif concluded her address to the UN Security Council with an important message: ‘I urge the international community to relinquish militarized approaches and to instead support us with technical expertise and resources as Iraqis to rebuild our homeland, end corruption and work towards lasting peace. None of this is possible without respect for women’s rights, or without women taking their rightful place at the table.’
A major new report on violence against women in Iraq will be published by Ceasefire later this year, in partnership with Asuda.
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