In Iraq, the Women's Empowerment Committee has marked the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict with a seminar on the topic of sexual violence during war.
The International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, which falls on 19th of June, was observed by the Iraqi Government, which held a conference in Baghdad, with the aim of seeking to address some of the issues that women face throughout the country.
Since filing complaints against sexual harassers is taboo among conservative and tribal elements of Iraqi society, the conference focused on changing society’s attitude, by encouraging families to report cases of sexual harassment and rape.
“Women should be encouraged to file a complaint against those who harass them because the cases of violence and rape are imprescriptible offences,” said Ibtisam Fareed, the head of the Women’s Empowerment Committee in the Prime Minister’s Office. “Families should also be encouraged to claim their rights in the courts.”
According to officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, hundreds of women are concerned with electronic blackmail, a method of intimidation that has been on the rise, due to the spread of mobile technology. In response to this issue, the Iraqi Government has formed a department within the Interior Ministry that deals with online blackmail. The department has called upon women who face this problem to call their hotline and explain the problem they are facing. Following this, the cell investigates the claim and then takes appropriate action against the harassers.
“There is a law that imprisons those who partake in [online blackmail] from six months to one year,” said Lamee’a al-Jubouri, the head of the Women’s Empowerment Committee in the Ministry of Culture.
Attendees of the conference also discussed the problems that women in liberated areas face following the defeat of ISIS. Representatives of the UN said that they are working closely with the Iraqi Government to aid women who have suffered sexual violence in areas afflicted by the war.
“Many measures have been adopted in dealing with victims of sexual violence in war-affected areas after liberation,” said Alice Wilbur, the Principal Deputy Representative of the UN Secretary-General. “These include many of the services adopted by the United Nations in Iraq, including social, health, and legal services.”
Furthermore, attendees confirmed that the Iraqi Government is attempting to find out the fate of over 1,500 Iraqi women who are still being held by ISIS, so that they can be brought home and rehabilitated.
“The Iraqi government in all its institutions appealed to Interpol and other international organisations to determine the fate of those missing women,” said Ibtisam Fareed.
While activists say that these steps have a positive impact on the empowerment of women in the country, they continue to call on the Iraqi Parliament to legislate a law that punishes domestic violence, which they consider the most real legal guarantee against violence against women in the country.