Women and women’s rights in Iraq have been – and continue to be – affected by the country’s recent wars and the current internal conflict. Between 1960 and 1980, Iraqi women had gained access to education, health care and employment, and their political and economic participation was significantly advanced. But women suffered considerably during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, with many becoming widows and having to support their families, although at the same time, the shortage of men enabled women to enter fields of education and employment that had previously been closed to them. UN sanctions imposed after the first Gulf War (1991) caused further hardship for the Iraqi people, and since the 2003 war-, women’s position and security in society has markedly deteriorated. As of 2009, though, this appears to be improving and, according to Freedom House, there has been an increase in the number of women visible in public life as a result.
Iraq’s new Constitution (adopted in 2005) states that all Iraqis are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination based on sex (at Article 14). However, the Constitution also cites Islam as the basic source of legislation and forbids the passing of laws contradictory to its “established rulings”, and Article 41 allows each religious group in Iraq to govern its own personal status matters.As a result, the situation of women in Iraq very much depends on the implementation of Islamic law and on the priorities of male religious authorities. Iraq ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986, but has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol on violence against women. Iraq maintains reservations to Article 2 (f ) and (g), which call on states to modify or abolish existing laws and penal codes that discriminate against women; Article 9, which requires equal rights regarding changes and transfers of nationality; Article 16, which concerns the elimination of discrimination in marriage and family relations; and Article 29, paragraph 1, with regard to the principle of international arbitration on the interpretation or application of the convention.
 Ahmed (2010) pp.157-158  Ahmed (2010) pp.159, 173  Ahmed (2010) p.159  Freedom House (2010)  Ahmed, Huda (2010) p.161  Ahmed, Huda (2010) pp.160, 161  Ahmed, Huda (2010) p.160  United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.)  Ahmed (2010) pp.164-165
Under Article 41 of the 2005 Constitution, each religious group in Iraq has the right to govern its own personal status matters. However, this provision has not yet been implemented, as revisions to the Constitution are on-going (as of 2011), and because women’s rights activists in Iraq have mounted a sustained campaign against Article 41.,  Iraqi law considers women over 18 to be full adults, in contrast to many other neighbouring countries where women are considered legal minors, under the protection of a male guardian.
Given on-going discussions regarding personal status matters under Article 41 of the Constitution, matters relating to the family in Iraq continue to be governed by the Personal Status Law of 1959. The consent of both spouses is needed for a marriage to be legal, and the legal age of marriage is 18 years for both men and women (but with parents’ consent and judicial permission the age can be lowered to 15 years)., 
At present, as outlined above marriage continues to be governed by the 1959 Personal Status Law, under which the minimum age for marriage is 18. This is a civil law, but draws on Sharia law.
As outlined above, eventual implementation of Article 41 of the Constitution would allow each religious group in Iraq to govern its own personal status matters. This could result in different minimum ages for marriage being adopted by different groups.
Early marriage does occur, often arranged by parents and performed under a religious ceremony, but is not legally recognised. Since 2003, there has apparently been a rise in the number of unregistered, temporary ‘mut’ah’ marriages among Shiites, under which women have no legal rights. 
Under the Personal Status Law, the father is the guardian of the children, meaning that women and men do not have equal parental authority over children. Mothers are considered the physical – but not legal – custodians., 
In cases of divorce, under the 1959 Personal Status Law, women are granted physical custody of children up to the age of 10, during which the father must pay child support to the mother. This custody can be extended up to the age of 15 if it is in the child’s best interests, after which time the child can decide which parent s/he wants to live with. A woman does not automatically lose physical custody of her children if she remarries.
At present, parental authority continues to be governed by the 1959 Personal Status Law, under which the minimum age for marriage is 18.This is a civil law, but draws on Sharia law.
The 1959 Personal Status law granted women and men equal inheritance rights. However, subsequent amendments effectively reintroduced Sharia law as the framework for deciding on inheritance matters, and this discriminates against women.
Sharia law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. Women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled. Daughters, for example, typically inherit half as much as sons. 
According to Ahmed, women frequently face pressure from their families to renounce their inheritance rights. In such cases, even when women are aware of their inheritance rights under Sharia, they are often reluctant to bring cases to the courts, preferring to resolve such disputes privately.
Men and women have different rights regarding divorce in Iraq: men have the right to divorce their wives unilaterally (repudiation), while women can file for divorce based on a number of specific causes (including ‘conflict’), or pay, effectively, for a ‘khula’ divorce (whereby a woman can obtain a divorce unilaterally, but then forfeits her dowry and any future financial support).
The 1959 Personal Status Law states that a husband has a legal obligation to support this wife financially, and that a wife should only not obey her husband if his order is in conflict with Sharia. This would imply that a woman cannot legally be recognised as the head of the household.
 MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), pp.97-98  UNICEF (2011), p.1  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.164  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), pp.12-13, 97-98  Ahmed, Huda (2010), pp.168, 169  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.99  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), pp.97-99  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.168  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.169  UNICEF (2011), p.2  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.169  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.169  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), pp.97-99  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.176  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.62  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.176  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.169  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), pp.103, 105
In Iraq, there is no specific law criminalizing domestic violence. Article 29 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of violence and abuse within the family.However, under Article 41 of the Penal Code (1969), a husband has the legal right to punish his wife.,  Attempts at repealing this and other discriminatory legislation have been unsuccessful, due to their rejection by the Supreme Judicial Council on the grounds that they would conflict with tribal and religious norms.
In 2011, the Kurdistan Regional Government passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes provisions criminalizing domestic violence, as well as forced and child marriages and FGM.
As of 2011, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was drafting a national action plan to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. It is not clear if this action plan was finalised and whether it is being implemented.
At present, NGOs provide support to victims of domestic violence. However, Ahmed notes that women’s rights NGOs seeking to provide support services to victims of domestic violence face significant bureaucratic hurdles, and must obtain permission from four separate ministries and the police.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Kurdistan Regional Government has set up institutions to investigate and combat domestic violence. These include special family protection units within the police, through which women can file complaints and seek protection. However, these units are reported to be ineffective, and women seeking help from them have on occasion been returned to their families.No data were available on conviction rates.
There appears to be a high level of acceptance of violence within marriages, and although domestic violence is largely under-reported (as it is considered to be a private matter, to be resolved within the family), it is believed to be common. Women victims of domestic violence have options but to stay with their abusers, as there are few support services available, and natal families are often reluctant to take women back, on the grounds that leaving a husband brings shame on the whole family.Relatives and tribal sheikhs who are called upon to intervene in domestic violence cases usually demand that the couple reconcile (even if they find in the woman’s favour), leaving the woman at risk of further abuse.
Amnesty International reports that levels of domestic violence are also high in Iraqi Kurdistan, although no accurate figures are available as to prevalence.
Rape is a criminal offence under the Penal Code; however, it is classed as a private offence under the Penal Code, meaning that the state cannot take action without permission from the victim or her legal guardian (if she is underage).
Under Sharia law as interpreted in Iraq, the concept of spousal rape is not recognised. Indeed, the husband has the right to have sex with his wife unless she is ill or has a ‘compelling reason’ to refuse.
Under Article 398 of the Penal Code, a rapist can escape prosecution by marrying the victim.
No information was found regarding whether any mechanisms or measures exist to ensure the laws on rape are implemented, or on conviction rates.
According to the US Department of State, sexual crimes are rarely reported in Iraq, due to fear of stigma and retribution. Research by UNDP found that in cases of rape, the victim’s family sometimes demands that she agrees to marry the rapist in order to protect the family’s ‘honour’; in the event that she refuses, the family may resort to the courts ask a judge to force the marriage to take place.
According to Ahmed (writing in a report for Freedom House), sexual harassment is covered under the 1969 Penal Code and the 1987 Labour Code. However, the US Department of State notes that the articles in the Penal Code covering sexual harassment actually relate to the prohibition of sexual relations outside of marriage; as such, a woman making a complaint of sexual harassment could herself face prosecution. In addition, a perpetrator is able to escape prosecution if he agrees to marry the victim.
Ahmed notes that the law on sexual harassment is poorly enforced, and that few women are aware of their rights to protection.
Fear of prosecution, bringing shame on the family and the resultant threat of ‘honour’ violence, as well as distrust in the criminal justice system mean few women report cases of sexual harassment. In addition, the absence of the rule of law means that women who do make complaints of sexual harassment are in danger of further violence from their aggressors., 
As discussed below, street sexual harassment of women has been a significant feature of the on-going conflict in Iraq. According to Ahmed, police have been indifferent or hostile towards victims, and there are also reports of female members of the security forces facing sexual harassment from their male colleagues.
There is no evidence that female genital mutilation (FGM) is practised in Iraq.
The physical integrity of women in Iraq has been systematically compromised as a result of the on-going conflict, and women in many parts of Iraq are at risk of physical and sexual violence on a day-to-day basis. Women have faced physical attack on the streets from ordinary men, as well as from members of armed Islamist militias, who accuse them of not adhering to strict Islamic moral codes, while those taken into detention by both Iraqi and foreign forces report physical and sexual violence at the hands of their captors. , ,  The World Bank also notes that the on-going conflict in Iraq has led to a large increase in male adult mortality, relative to female adult mortality. As Human Watch Rights observes, this has meant that many women are now bringing up children on their own, often in situations of considerable financial hardship and vulnerability.
‘Honour’ crimes, whereby women are assaulted or killed by members of their family for having besmirched the family’s ‘honour’ through some aspect of their behaviour, occur in Iraq, and under the Penal Code, those found guilty of committing ‘honour’ crimes are afforded lenient sentences. According to Ahmed, writing in a 2010 report published by Freedom House, the number of ‘honour’ crimes has increased dramatically since the US-led invasion in 2003.In most cases, crimes go unreported, and even when the police do learn of a case, they are often sympathetic towards the family and agree that they have done the right thing. ‘Honour’ crimes also occur in Iraqi Kurdistan, although here, the government has passed a law prohibiting lenient sentences in ‘honour’ crime cases. In 2007, a young woman from the minority Yezidi community was publicly stoned to death in Kurdistan by a group that included members of her family, after she formed an attachment to a young Sunni Muslim man. The murder was witnessed by members of the security forces, who failed to intervene.According to Amnesty International, there have also been cases of gay men (or men assumed to be gay) killed by members of their family or tribe in the name of ‘honour’.
Abortion is only available in cases where the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.
 Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.168  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.168  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.9  Bushra, Juhi (2011)  UNICEF (2011), p.3  Bushra, Juhi (2011)  Human Rights Watch (2013), p.548  Bushra, Juhi (2011)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.172.  Human Rights Watch (2010), p.4  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.170  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.170  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.170  Bushra, Juhi (2011)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.170  Amnesty International (2010), p.179  Penal Code, Article 393  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.171  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.168  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.10  UNDP (2012), p.12  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175  US Department of State (2013) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Iraq, US Department of State, Washington, D.C., http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2012&dlid=204362 (accessed 22 August 2013)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175  US Department of State (2013)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175  Ahmed, Huda (2010), pp.163, 171  Amnesty International (2010), p.178  Ahmed, Huda (2010), pp.160-161, 164, 166  Amnesty International (2013), p.130  World Bank (2011), p.119  Human Rights Watch (2013), p.546  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.163  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.163 (no figures provided)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.163  Human Rights Watch (2010), p.4  Amnesty International (2009), p.11  Amnesty International (2010), p.177  United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2013)
Iraq has a male/female sex ratio at birth of 1.05 in 2013. This drops to 1.04 for the age-range 0-14 and keeps stable around 1.03 for the working age-group 15-64. The 2014 projected sex-ratio for the entire population is 1.03.Analysis of sex ratios across age groups suggests initial evidence that missing women is an issue of concern in Iraq but the situation is improving.
Infant mortality rate is higher for boys than for girls, with 41.57 deaths over 1,000 live births and 33.28 deaths over 1,000 live births, respectively.
UNICEF data on education statistics reveal that the gender gap in education is still not closed. The 2008-2012 net attendance ratio in primary school is 92.7% for males and 87% for females. This gap keeps almost unaltered in secondary education, with net attendance ratios around 52.5% for males and 44.6% for females. Males’ literacy rates for the 15-24 age group are higher than females’ ones (84.1% compared to 80.5).
Under the 1970 Agrarian Reform Law, women in Iraq were granted the right to exercise economic independence and own and cultivate land. Under the 2005 Constitution (Article 23) and the Civil Code, women and men have the same rights to own, access, and manage non-land assets., 
On marriage, a woman has the right to retain to ownership and control of her own property, including land. Land and property ownership appear to be governed exclusively by civil law.,  No data were found on women’s land and property ownership.
Ahmed reports that few women are able to exercise their property and land rights in the current social and political situation.
Women also have the right to enter into financial contracts and access financial services, including bank loans and other forms of credit, and do not need their husband’s permission to do so.Under the regulations of the Agricultural Bank, women are able to access credit on the same basis as men.
No information was found regarding whether or not women experience discrimination in accessing credit. However, UNDP notes that women routinely need permission from husbands or male relatives to engage in activities outside the home, including economic activities, while Ahmed states that social perceptions reinforce the idea that men are better at business.,  Together, this would indicate that women face de facto restrictions on accessing credit.
According to the World Bank, 13% of men and 8% of women had a bank account in 2011. In the same year, 8% of adults had taken out a loan with a financial institution (defined as a bank, credit union, microfinance institution, or another financial institution such as a cooperative); these data were not disaggregated by gender.
The government does not appear to run any micro-credit programmes for women, although some organisations do offer seed grants to women would-be entrepreneurs. Research by UNDP found that lack of familiarity, preference for borrowing from friends and family, and the need to secure permission from husbands or brothers or fathers meant that many women were reluctant to make use of micro-credit services.
According to the Microfinance Information Exchange, in 2012, women accounted for 15.74% of recipients of micro-credit in Iraq.
 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Land Coalition (ILC) (2004), p.44  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.60  Ahmed, Huda (2010) ‘Iraq’, in Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, eds., (2010), p.175  Ahmed, Huda (2010) ‘Iraq’, in Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, eds., (2010), p.175  MacLeod, Jennifer (2010), p.60  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175.  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.175  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Land Coalition (ILC) (2004), p.44  UNDP (2012), p.21  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.176  World Bank (n.d.) Financial Inclusion Data – Iraq  UNDP (2012), p.21  Microfinance Information Exchange (2013) Database
Iraqi women are unable to obtain a passport and travel outside the country without the approval of a male relative. The Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to travel within the country, and to choose their place of residence.
Recently, women’s freedom of movement and access to public space has been limited (unofficially) by the ongoing conflict; many women are not able – or do not dare – to leave their homes without male escort, as a result of the general security situation, for fear of attack at the hands of Islamist militias for having somehow transgressed unwritten rules regarding acceptable feminine dress and behaviour, or because families are worried about protecting their reputation.,  This has inevitably placed restrictions on their ability to work outside the home, and access education.,  It should be noted that women in Iraqi Kurdistan generally enjoy a greater degree of freedom of movement.
Women – and men – who do not conform to accepted gender norms regarding appearance and behaviour are at risk of violence and discrimination, restricting their free access to public space. Gay men – or men perceived to be gay – have been targeted by Islamist militia groups in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, where they have been kidnapped and tortured, prior to being killed.As discussed above, gay men have also been subjected to ‘honour’ killings where they have been killed by members of their own families. In March 2012, there were violent attacks (including murders) against young people identifying as ‘emo’, a subculture characterized by distinctive clothes and musical tastes. Authorities have done nothing to bring those accountable to justice., 
Ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq face discrimination, harassment, and violence. According to Minority Rights Group International minority women in particular fear wearing religious symbols publicly, and hide their religious affiliation to protect themselves from harassment. This further impacts on the free access to public space of women from these communities.
In terms of quotas, under the Election Law, as amended in 2009, at least 25% of candidates on a party’s candidate list must be women, and under Regulation no. 21, Seat Allocation (2010), at least 25% of the national level Council of Representatives must be women. At sub-national level, at least 25% of seats in provincial councils will be allocated to women.
In Iraqi Kurdistan there is a 30% quota in place in the KRG parliament.
As of 2013, women held 25.2% of seats in parliment.
Women are protected from discrimination in the workplace under the 1987 Labour Code.
Pregnant women in Iraq are entitled to 62 days’ paid maternity leave. While on maternity leave, women receive their full salary. Maternity leave is paid for by the employer.
In 2007, a prominent woman journalist and woman’s rights activist, Sahar Hussain al-Haideri, was shot dead by an Islamist armed group, after having criticised such groups for their attacks on women’s rights. Women journalists are a rarity in Iraq, and many have faced violence and intimidation, particularly those writing and broadcasting on human rights and other contentious issues. In general, the media does not engage with gender issues that could be deemed sensitive, and portrays women in the stereotypical roles of mother and homemaker.
 Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.167  Amnesty International (2010), p.177  UNDP (2012), p.20  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.161  UNDP (2012), p.20  Human Rights Watch (2010), New York  Amnesty International (2010), p.177  Human Rights Watch (2013), p.548.  Amnesty International (2013), p.129  Minority Rights Group International (MRG) (2012), pp.200-201  The Quota Project (2013)  Human Rights Watch (2010), p.4  OECD (2014), Gender, Institutions and Development Database, http://stats.oecd.org  Ahmed, Huda (2010), pp.162, 174  Labour Code, Article 84  Amnesty International (2009), p.17  Gorchekova, Nadezhda (2013)  Ahmed, Huda (2010), p.186-187
Ahmed, Huda (2010) ‘Iraq’, in Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, eds., (2010) Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House, New York, NY; Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD
Amnesty International (2013) Amnesty International Report 2013: State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International, London
Amnesty International (2010) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International, London.
Amnesty International (2009) ‘The gender trap. Women, violence and poverty’, ACT 77/009/2009, Amnesty International, London.
Bushra, Juhi (2011) ‘Hopes dim to change Iraq laws to protect women’, boston.com, 11 October 2011, http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2011/10/11/hopes_dim_to_change_iraq_laws_to_protect_women/ (accessed 22 August 2013)
Central Intelligence Agency (2013). The World Factbook, Iraq, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/iz.html (accessed 14 April 2014)
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Land Coalition (ILC) (2004), ‘Rural Women’s Access to Land and Property in Selected Countries: Progress Towards Achieving the Aims of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’, FAO Gender and Population Division, IFAD Technical Advisory Division, and ILC, Rome.
Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World Country Reports: Iraq, online edition,http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2010&country=7843(accessed 17 February 2011)
Gorchekova, Nadezhda (2013) ‘In the news: Women Journalists in Iraq’, Women for Women International, http://www.womenforwomeninternational.org.uk/blog/in-the-news-women-journalists-in-iraq/ (accessed 22 August 2013).
Human Rights Watch (2013) World Report 2013: Events of 2012, Human Rights Watch, New York
Human Rights Watch (2010) ‘“They Took Me and Told Me Nothing” Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan’, Human Rights Watch, New York
International Labour Organization (ILO) (2011) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws: Iraq, http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/travmain.sectionReport1?p_lang=en&p_countries=IQ&p_sc_id=2000&p_year=2011&p_structure=3 (accessed 22 August 2013)
Klasen, S. and C. Wink (2003), “Missing Women”: Revisiting the Debate, Feminist Economics 9(2 – 3), 2003, 263 – 299
Labour Code, Article 84. International Labour Organization (ILO) (2011) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws: Iraq, http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/travmain.sectionReport1?p_lang=en&p_countries=IQ&p_sc_id=2000&p_year=2011&p_structure=3 (accessed 22 August 2013).
Microfinance Information Exchange (2013) Database - http://reports.mixmarket.org/crossmarket# (accessed 21 June 2013)
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) (2012) State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012, MRG, London
The Quota Project (2013) Global Database of Quotas for Women – Iraq, http://www.quotaproject.org/uid/countryview.cfm?ul=en&country=107 (accessed 22 August 2013)
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2013) World Abortion Policies 2013, United Nations, New York. www.unpopulation.org (accessed 19 June 2013)
UNDP (2012) ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment: Integrating Women into the Iraqi Economy’, UNDP Iraq, Baghdad
UNICEF (2011) ‘Iraq: MENA Gender Equality Profile. Status of Women and Girls in the Middle East and North Africa’, UNICEF Regional Office for North Africa and the Middle East, Amman
UNICEF Country Statistics (2013), available at http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iraq_statistics.html (accessed 14 April 2014)
US Department of State (2013) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Iraq, US Department of State, Washington, D.C., http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2012&dlid=204362 (accessed 22 August 2013)
World Bank (n.d.) Data: Iraq, http://data.worldbank.org/country/iraq (accessed 14 April 2014)
World Bank (n.d.) Financial Inclusion Data – Iraq, World Bank , Washington, D.C., http://datatopics.worldbank.org/financialinclusion/country/iraq (accessed 22 August 2013)
World Bank (2011) World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, World Bank, Washington, D.C.