Women’s rights law no match for Kurdistan tradition
In what is a conservative society even by Middle East standards, the passage of the law last year was hailed by rights groups and NGOs as a major step forward after years of struggle.
The law punishes physical, sexual and psychological assault committed within the family, creates conditions for the protection of victims and mandates the establishment of specialised courts.
It also carries penal and financial punishments for those who promote or practise female genital mutilation.
Kurdistan is a three-province region in Iraq’s north that enjoys great autonomy from the central government, with its own parliament, budget, and armed forces.
The region benefits from a markedly more stable security situation than the rest of the country, and an improving economy, two factors that mean life for women in Kurdistan is widely regarded as better than Iraq’s other provinces.
But terrible problems remain, one of which is female genital mutilation.
Though often perceived as a problem mostly prevalent in Africa, the practice is widespread in Kurdistan, according to German NGO Wadi, which published a report in 2010 on the subject, based on interviews with 1,700 women in the region.
According to that report, 72.7 per cent of women in the region’s two biggest provinces of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah were victims of female genital mutilation, with the rate rising to almost 100 per cent in some areas.
Wadi pointed to a "clear link” between the practice and illiteracy, pegged at 51.1 per cent among women in Kurdistan. (...)