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[casi-analysis] Iraqi GC Law 137 and its potential effect on Iraqi women's status

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Dear CASI members

Why has most Western media ignored the issue of Law 137, despite reporting
on the recent mass demonstrations in Iraq?  Because it's complex, that's
why.  I wrote this analysis to try and explain to the media.  Any comments?
Please forward to your media contacts.

best wishes

Western media reported that thousands demonstrated against the Coalition's
plans to set up a government for Iraq by appointments rather than elections.
So far, so good.

But little was said in the mainstream Western media (except in the Financial
Times and Washington Post) about one of the actions of the current
US-selected Governing Council which sparked such strong feeling:

 - namely, the repealing of the 1958 (or 1959) unified secular Personal
Status Law (or Family Law) under which, I understand, men and women have
equal status, in favour of instituting Sharia law, whereby different clerics
can write the Personal Status Law (or Family Law) for those under their
jusridiction, as they see fit.

This action, passed by the Iraqi Governing Council as Law 137 on 29
December, behind closed doors, seems only to have become public knowledge
around the 13 January.

It's worth the effort trying to clarify the issue, especially as far as the
status of women is concerned.  I hope I've got this right - if not, please
send corrections/references:

Women, in particular, would be affected by the repeal of the unified secular
law, because religious law can be interpreted by some clerics in a very
restrictive way.
For example, women may find themselves living in an area where:
- they would have to get permission from a family member before being able
to marry
- their husbands would be allowed to forbid them from working
- their husbands would be allowed to divorce them by saying 'I divorce you'
three times
- an ex-husband would need only to pay for his divorced wife for 3 months,
ie. until certain she was not carrying his child, thus affecting a woman's
right to alimony.

For all his many faults and terrible deeds, Saddam never moved from secular
to religious law, never repealed the unified Personal Status Law, which
existed in Iraq for over 40 years.

See some links below for further information and opinions.

Cathy Aitchison

Post to the CASI list, 15 jan, quoting Juan Cole
Riverbend blog.  Look for January 20th, Still brooding...
(NB:  she refers to the law as 173 instead of 137)
DAWN, Pakistan, 22 Jan
Contradicting a claim. Opinion piece by Michael Jansen in the Jordan Times,
22 Jan, analysing Bremer's possible reasons for encouraging the law change
Washington Post article, 15 Jan
Press conference of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, 16 Jan
Arab Media Watch, 20 Jan - look for 'Dozens of of Iraqi women demonstrate in
Baghdad against threat to their rights', source Agence France Presse[157]=x-157-33779%20&cmd[1
Women Living under Muslim Laws statement, 23 Jan

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