On 5 September 2020, the She Revolution group held a webinar during the Norwegian Social Forum called “Women in Iraq from the Revolution to Corona.” The webinar explored how women’s lives have been affected in Iraq, beginning with the demonstrations that started last October to the spread of COVID19. Together, participants in the webinar looked at the increase of domestic violence and suicide rates and discussed the recent debates surrounding the domestic violence law and what its passing — or indeed, its rejection — might mean for Iraqi society.
The session lasted an hour and a half and was led by 3 speakers representing the She Revolution. It was divided into 3 parts, each one examined a one of the topics mentioned above: women’s lives and impact of the demonstrations, of COVID!9 and the domestic violence law.
The first speaker began by looking at the roots of the October protests, explaining how this nonviolent, grassroots movement is ultimately about about Iraqis transforming their country from a land torn apart by artificial divisions to a place all Iraqis can call home. These protests have taken the lives of 700 hundred Iraqis, 170 protestors have disappeared and more than 27,000 people have been injured.
Women have played a big role in these protests as they were in the public squares from the start, helping with food and medical support and actively marching in organized demonstrations in provinces all over Iraq. This active and effective participation served to break open deeply held stereotypes within Iraqi society about the role of women, causing many people to reconsider the role women play.
The second speaker looked at the ways in which the coronavirus has impacted the lives of women and children in in Iraq. She discussed the social and economic effects of COVID on women, and how women became responsible for their families after many men lost their jobs. This shift in power along with the dramatic change to work and finances in families led to a large increase of domestic violence during the lockdown period.
Finally the webinar turned to the issue of the proposed domestic violence law and the campaigns supporting it, especially after the case of Malak Alzubaidy who burned herself after suffering terrible abuse. The perpetrator was not held accountable, as the current law specifies that the victim herself must denounce the violence.
The new law faces some significant challenges; some stand against the law, claiming that it will make children disobey their parents or gives excessive freedom to women.
The third speaker presented the different variations of the amendment to the current domestic violence law. These include the possibility that people other than the victim can report a case of violence. It also requires more education about this important issues, raising awareness about the law, and more generally working to shift the way the community thinks about women.
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