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Draft of Iraqi constitution harsh on women's rights

[JURIST] According to a working draft of the new Iraqi constitution obtained Tuesday by the New York Times, Islamic law would play a strong role in the Iraqi legal and political system and women's rights would be cut back. Under the text, equality for women would be allowed only insofar as it did not conflict with Islamic Shariah [BBC backgrounder], or Koranic Law, on marriage, divorce, and inheritance; women would be required to obtain their families' permission to marry, and under some interpretations a husband could be allowed to divorce his wife by simply telling her three times that he wished to do so. Court cases involving these issues would also be governed by laws of the parties' religious sect. From a rights perspective the draft provisions represent rollback both from Iraq's relatively-progressive 1959 personal status law that applied during the Saddam era and principles enshrined in Iraq's interim constitution, the Transitional Adminstrative Law [text], composed under the aegis of the US Coalition Provisional Authority. A clause co-written by the US that would require that women make up 25% of parliament [AFP report] is also apparently still up for debate as the August 15 deadline for a final draft approaches.

American and Iraqi officials insist that there are several drafts of the new constitution in circulation and no final version has been agreed upon. On June 30 the Iraqi al-Mada newspaper published what it said was a draft version of the Iraqi bill of rights that bears some resemblance to the document described by the Times; the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace later posted an English translation, with commentary [PDF]. The New York Times has more.

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