Judge hails 'guarantee' of women MPs

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The Independent Online

The draft charter contains a guarantee that women will make up no less than 25 per cent of MPs in the future Iraqi parliament, Zakia Hakki said.

"This is good news, it has been a real battle," said Ms Hakki, who was the first woman judge appointed in Iraq in 1959. The text, agreed by the drafting committee, speaks of "the goal of aiming for 25 per cent of female members in the National Assembly".

Ms Hakki said the result was a tribute to the work of women's groups and other non-governmental organisations who campaigned for women's representation to be recognised. "People came from different ethnic backgrounds but we unified all our efforts, and this was a victory for us."

Ms Hakki, an MP who is a Kurd and a Shia Muslim, saidfrom Baghdad that the drafting committee had dropped any conditions attached to the issue of women's representation.

"They had initially said it would only be for two terms, which meant that after eight years the guarantee could be removed. But now it is without any conditions."

But Iraqi women are still waiting to see a copy of the text to confirm the role of Islam. It appears that the final draft speaks of Islam as "a main source" of law, rather than "the main source" which had been feared by women's groups.

"This will affect all our laws, including the criminal courts," she said. "If the constitution says 'a main source', it's better. We still have such things as the universal declaration of human rights as a reference."

The issue of the Islamic veil was trickier, she added. "We need time for that. It's not like a button you press, and say 'you shouldn't have this'. It's not a matter of issuing a law about it."