Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Constitution draft worries Iraqi women :: Boston Globe

A chapter of Iraq's draft constitution gives Islam a major role in Iraqi civil law, raising concerns that women could lose rights in marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The proposal, obtained by the Associated Press yesterday, also appears to rule out nongovernmental militias. . . .

The civil law section, one of six to make up Iraq's charter, covers the rights and duties of citizens and public and private freedoms. The language in the chapter is not final, but members of the charter drafting committee said there was agreement on most of its wording.
. . .
Most worrying for women's groups has been the section on civil rights, which some feel would significantly roll back women's rights under a 1959 civil law enacted by a secular regime.
In the copy obtained by AP, Article 19 of the second chapter says ''the followers of any religion or sect are free to choose their civil status according to their religious or sectarian beliefs."
Shi'ite Muslim leaders have pushed for a stronger role for Islam in civil law, but women's groups argue that could base legal interpretations on stricter religious lines that are less favorable toward women. Under Islamic law, a woman gets half of what a man would get when it comes to inheritance. Men also have the power when it comes to initiating divorces.

Committee members said yesterday that they had taken account of women's concerns, but said they were not planning to make changes since the National Assembly will have final say on the wording. Committee member Khudayer al-Khuzai said Muslims would be free to choose which Islamic sect they want to be judged under in the proposed civil law. ''We will not force anyone to adopt any sect at all. People are free to choose the sect they see as better or more legitimate. This is implemented in marriage, inheritance, and all civil rights," he said.

Not all Shi'ite laws are disadvantageous for women. Many Sunni Muslims who have only daughters prefer to follow Shi'ite religious law when it comes to inheritance since daughters inherit everything their parents leave; under Sunni rules, daughters have to share their inheritance with other relatives.
What happens when, for example, the husband chooses one set of rules and the wife another?



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