The Committee considered the combined second
and third periodic reports of Iraq (CEDAW/C/IRQ/2-3)
at its 468th and 469th meetings, on 14 June
2000 (see CEDAW/C/SR.468 and 469).
Introduction by the State party
In introducing the report, the representative
of Iraq stressed her delegation's desire for
a constructive dialogue with the Committee.
She noted that according to the most recent
census of 1997, women composed 50.3 per cent
of the total population of approximately 22
million, which reflected a population growth
since 1987 of approximately 3 per cent.
The representative informed the Committee of
actions taken in her country pursuant to the
Convention and the Beijing Declaration and the
Platform for Action. These included a seminar
in 1994 on the topic "Women and human rights:
ways of confronting challenges". The seminar,
organized by the Government in cooperation with
non-governmental organizations, resulted in
the adoption of the Declaration of Baghdad.
A national strategy to promote the situation
of Iraqi women had also been developed after
the Fourth World Conference on Women. Institutional
mechanisms had been reinforced to facilitate
the strategy's implementation. For instance,
a high-level National Committee for the Advancement
of Iraqi Women had been established, headed
by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
and comprising high-level officials from ministries
and bodies concerned with the implementation
of the national strategy.
The representative emphasized that the implementation
of the Convention in Iraq should be seen against
the background of the circumstances of the country.
She recalled paragraph 145 of the Beijing Platform
for Action, on the negative impact of economic
sanctions on the status of women, and noted
that the comprehensive regime of sanctions on
Iraq had negatively affected the lives of its
people and resulted in a significant increase
in child and maternal mortality and cancers,
including leukaemia. In that regard, she drew
attention to the findings and recommendations
in a 1999 UNICEF survey on child and maternal
mortality in Iraq.
The representative noted that Iraq had experienced
over 197,000 air raids since 9 May 1991 which
had caused the death of hundreds of civilians
and the destruction of critical economic infrastructure.
Extreme suffering had been experienced by the
general population and among women and children,
in particular. The absence of governmental control
over the north of the country had also impeded
the State party's ability to monitor the implementation
of international human rights treaties, including
The representative emphasized the Government's
decisive political will to implement the Convention,
which was clear from steps such as the accession
to the Convention, regular reporting, the formulation
of national strategies and the establishment
of national mechanisms. The absence of adequate
resources and international cooperation had
hindered full implementation, and circumstances
had forced the State party to change its priorities
and shift its main focus to the right of survival,
especially for women and children.
The representative highlighted several measures
introduced to ensure the advancement of women.
They included the introduction, by the country's
largest political party, of quotas to increase
the number of women at the decision-making level,
which resulted in a marked increase in the number
of women occupying leadership positions after
the 1999 elections. Women currently comprised
8 per cent of members of Parliament, a figure
exceeding the Arab country average of 3 per
cent. The personal status code had been made
more equitable through reform of regulations
on alimony payments for women, which had been
further reinforced by criminal law. The penal
code had also been amended to exclude women
from detention for certain crimes.
The representative concluded that political
will existed at the highest levels in Iraq to
ensure the implementation of the Convention,
despite the adverse effects of sanctions and
the resultant limited resources which prevailed.
In that regard, she urged the Committee to take
into consideration the grave circumstances and
challenges facing her country, which were caused
mainly by sanctions, and which affected implementation
of the Convention.
Concluding comments of the Committee
The Committee expresses its appreciation to
the Government of Iraq for submitting its combined
second and third periodic report in accordance
with the Committee's guidelines for the preparation
of periodic reports and with statistical data
disaggregated by sex. It welcomes the submission
of written replies to the Committee's questions
and the oral presentation that further clarified
the current situation of women in Iraq. The
Committee appreciates the fact that, despite
the difficult situation faced by the country,
the Government has shown the will to continue
the constructive dialogue with the Committee.
The Committee welcomes the Government's stated
political will to implement the Convention and
notes with appreciation the legislative reforms
implemented by the State party, in particular
with regard to the Personal Status Code, which
brought about a greater degree of women's equality
with men, and the Penal Code, which now provides
greater protection to women.
The Committee commends the Government for adopting,
in June 1997, a National Strategy for the Advancement
of Women in implementation of the Beijing Platform
for Action and keeping in mind the provisions
of the Convention, as a five-year plan to the
The Committee welcomes the establishment, in
June 1997, of the high-level National Committee
for the Advancement of Iraqi Women, the agency
concerned with the advancement of women and
consisting of representatives of ministries
involved in activities of relevance to women,
and of the General Federation of Iraqi Women.
The Committee welcomes the work of the General
Federation of Iraqi Women aimed at implementation
of the Convention.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation
of the Convention
The Committee notes that the effects of sanctions
and embargo are reflected in the difficult economic
and social situation prevailing in the country,
which has had repercussions on the advancement
of women and on their socio-economic well-being.
The situation impedes the full implementation
of the Convention. However, the Committee is
of the opinion that, notwithstanding difficulties,
the State party remains responsible for implementing
its obligations under the Convention in order
to ensure elimination of discrimination against
women with respect to the rights contained in
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
The Committee notes with concern that while
the current situation in the State party is
not favourable to the advancement of women in
some respects, the State party has failed to
adopt specific policies and take all possible
measures to implement the Convention. The Committee
notes in particular the failure of the State
party to revoke legislative provisions that
discriminate against women.
The Committee also notes with concern that discriminatory
views and attitudes that impede women's enjoyment
of their rights have not been addressed by the
The Committee calls on the Government to review
discriminatory legislative provisions and to
take measures, including temporary special measures,
aimed at creating a non-discriminatory legislative
and de facto environment for women.
The Committee is concerned that while article
19, subparagraph (a), of the Constitution of
1970 provides for equality of all citizens before
the law without discrimination, including discrimination
on the basis of sex, it does not specifically
prohibit discrimination that has the effect
or purpose of adversely affecting women's human
rights. The Committee is also concerned that
article 19, subparagraph (b), grants equal opportunities
to all citizens "within the limits of the law",
thus restricting the guarantee of article 19,
subparagraph (a), in particular for women.
The Committee calls on the Government to encourage
a constitutional amendment which reflects fully
article 1 of the Convention. It also encourages
the Government to undertake a comprehensive
legislative review with a view to bringing all
legislation into full conformity with the Convention.
The Committee notes with concern that insufficient
information is available about progress in the
implementation of the national strategy and
in particular about steps to measure and evaluate
such progress and to identify successful programmes.
The Committee urges the Government to put in
place a mechanism to provide for the regular
evaluation and qualitative and quantitative
assessment of progress in the implementation
of the national strategy for the advancement
of women. It also invites the Government to
provide further information on the mandate,
annual work plans and major areas of activity
of the National Committee for the Advancement
of Women in its next report.
The Committee is concerned that the State party
explicitly ruled out the possibility of withdrawal
of its reservations to article 2, subparagraphs
(f) and (g), and articles 9 and 16. The Committee
expresses its concern at the State party's justification
of those reservations as being based on its
desire to apply the provisions of the Convention
in a manner consistent with Islamic Sharia.
In that regard, the Committee draws the attention
of the State party to its statement on reservations
(see A/53/38/Rev.1, part two, chap. I), and
in particular its view that articles 2 and 16
are central to the object and purpose of the
Convention, and that, in accordance with article
28, paragraph 2, reservations should be reviewed
and modified or withdrawn.
The Committee is also concerned that Iraq's
nationality law, which is based on the principle
that the members of a family should all have
the same nationality and that none should have
dual nationality or lose their nationality,
does not grant women an independent right to
acquire, change or retain their nationality
or to pass it on to their children.
The Committee recommends that the Government
of Iraq review its reservations to article 2,
subparagraphs (f) and (g), and articles 9 and
16, in the light of the Committee's statement
on reservations, assess the justifications for
those reservations and modify or withdraw them
as soon as possible to ensure full implementation
of the Convention.
While noting the existence of certain legislative
provisions on violence against women, the Committee
expresses its concern at the lack of a comprehensive
approach to that issue. The Committee is particularly
concerned about the lack of data and information
on the incidence and types of violence perpetrated
against women in the home and in society; social,
medical and psychological support available
to women subjected to violence; and measures
to prosecute and punish perpetrators and to
provide legal redress.
The Committee requests the Government to provide
in its next report a comprehensive picture with
regard to violence against women in the State
party, including information on legislation,
statistical data on the types and incidence
of violence against women and the responses
to such violence by law enforcement officials,
the judiciary, social workers and health-care
providers. The Committee urges the Government
to encourage and support the establishment of
facilities for women victims of domestic violence,
such as telephone hotlines and shelters for
battered women, and to launch a zero-tolerance
campaign on violence against women so as to
raise awareness about the problem and the need
to combat it effectively.
The Committee is concerned at the prevailing
view that emphasizes women's stereotypical role
in the family and in private life to the detriment
of establishing equality of women in all spheres
of life. The Committee notes with concern that
insufficient attention is being given to modifying
harmful traditional and cultural practices,
such as polygamy, and stereotypical attitudes
that perpetuate discrimination against women.
The Committee urges the Government to implement
awareness-raising campaigns to change stereotypical
and discriminatory attitudes concerning the
roles of women and girls, in addition to providing
a non-discriminatory legislative basis. It also
urges the Government to work towards the elimination
of the practice of polygamy, in light of the
Committee's general recommendation 21 on marriage
and family relations. It also urges the Government
to ensure that gender-sensitive public education
campaigns at all levels create a non-discriminatory
The Committee is also deeply concerned by the
violence against women perpetrated through honour
The Committee urges the Government in particular
to condemn and eradicate honour killings and
ensure that these crimes are prosecuted and
punished in the same way as other homicides.
While noting that, apparently, there is a quota
provision in place in the country's main political
party, the Ba'ath Party, to increase the number
of women in leadership positions, the Committee
expresses its concern about the continuing low
representation of women in public life.
The Committee calls on the Government to introduce
measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph
1, of the Convention, and especially to increase
the number of women in the political sphere.
The Committee notes with concern the level of
illiteracy among women, the increasing rate
at which girls drop out of secondary and higher
education, and the low representation of women
in technical schools.
The Committee calls on the Government to strengthen
efforts to eradicate illiteracy and to ensure
primary and secondary education for girls by
preventing school dropouts. It further urges
the Government to broaden the educational and
training opportunities for girls and young women
at the secondary and tertiary levels and in
technical fields. It urges the Government to
give particular attention to ensuring that girls
and women have equal access to new specializations,
including the opportunity to acquire skills
and knowledge to participate on a basis of equality
with men in the labour market and in the future
reconstruction of the country.
The Committee expresses its concern about women's
low participation in the labour market. It is
also concerned at the absence of a law establishing
minimum wages, which makes it extremely difficult
to determine whether women are being paid equal
pay for work of equal value. The Committee is
also concerned that the flexibility granted
to employers in labour relations has a negative
impact on women's employability and security
of employment. Differences in maternity benefits
granted to women in the public and the private
sector are also a cause of concern to the Committee.
The Committee urges the Government to ensure
that women do not bear a disproportionate portion
of the economic difficulties facing the country.
In particular, the Committee calls on the Government
to ensure that non-discriminatory labour legislation
is in place and effectively enforced. The Committee
requests the Government to ensure that women's
reproductive function does not lead to discrimination
against them in employment, job security and
The Committee recognizes that sanctions have
had a negative impact on women and children
in areas such as health care, nutrition, employment
and other basic social services. The Committee
nevertheless is concerned at the failure of
the Government to put in place specific and
targeted measures to address these problems.
The Committee urges the Government to assess
the differential impact of sanctions on women
and children, especially on particularly vulnerable
groups of women, and to put in place measures
aimed at countering such a negative impact.
In that regard, the Committee urges the Government
to use resources available from programmes such
as the oil-for-food programme in a manner that
directly benefits women, including through diverting
resources currently allocated for other purposes.
The Committee expresses its concern at the overall
health situation of women. It notes the high
incidence of maternal mortality and the lack
of basic health services, medicines and reproductive
health services, including qualified birth attendants.
The Committee is particularly concerned that,
given the socio-economic difficulties, no measures
have been put in place to address the mental
and psychological health of women. The Committee
is also concerned that no steps have been taken
to determine the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the
country, and that no relevant preventive education
and information campaigns aimed at women exist.
The Committee urges the Government to put in
place mechanisms to provide the greatest possible
protection of women's health rights. It urges
the Government to ensure that women and children
are effectively targeted so as to benefit from
available resources and that such resources
are not diverted to other purposes. It calls
on the Government to take a holistic view of
women's health, in line with the Committee's
general recommendation 24 relating to article
12 of the Convention, and to put in place measures
to ensure women's mental and psychological well-being.
The Committee expresses its concern about the
lack of information provided about the situation
of rural women and the implementation of article
14 of the Convention.
The Committee calls on the Government to provide
in its next report a comprehensive picture of
the situation of rural women, in particular
their educational, health and employment situation,
and the impact of traditions and stereotypes
on their status.
The Committee notes with concern the lack of
information on the situation of particularly
disadvantaged groups of women, especially women
belonging to ethnic minorities, including Kurds,
Turkmens and Assyrians.
The Committee calls on the Government to address
the situation of those groups of women.
The Committee requests that the Government respond
in its next periodic report to the specific
issues raised in the present concluding comments.
It requests the Government to provide information
about the mandate, functions and activities
of the Human Rights Commission established within
the National Assembly with regard to women's
enjoyment of their human rights. It also requests
that the Government engage in a broad consultative
process with women's non-governmental organizations,
including those that represent minority women,
when preparing its next report.
The Committee requests the wide dissemination
in Iraq of the present concluding comments,
in order to make the people of Iraq, and particularly
government administrators and politicians, aware
of the steps that have been taken to ensure
de jure and de facto equality for women and
the future steps that are required in that regard.
It also requests the Government to continue
to disseminate widely, and in particular to
women's and human rights organizations, the
Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's
general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action, and the results of
the twenty-third special session of the General
Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality,
development and peace for the twenty-first century".