Written by Banaz Taha
In 2011, Act No. 8 of Combating Domestic Violence in the Kurdistan Region was passed for the purpose of ensuring safety and stability within family structures and preventing them from disintegration. The law consists of ten articles addressing domestic violence against men, women and children.
Since its enactment however, legal experts, the public, governmental and non-governmental organisations have raised a number of concerns over loopholes in the law. This instigated MERI to review and encourage amendments to the current legislative framework in order to ensure that it appropriately addresses family and domestic violence incidents taking place in the Kurdistan Region.
For the review and amendment process, MERI established a Legal Committee consisting of representatives from the General Directorate for Combating Domestic Violence, NGOs and parliamentarians. Several roundtable meetings and workshops have taken place, resulting in the first Draft Law on December 1, 2014.
This Draft Law widens the scope of the definition of domestic violence by adding provisions on the right to education, forced impregnation, forced baby gender tests and forced chastity tests for women.
Furthermore, it not only gives the legal representatives of victims and victims themselves the right to file a lawsuit, but it also allows “anybody else who has knowledge of cases of domestic violence” to do so through the General Directorate, the police stations or the public prosecutor. It also emphasizes the role of the General Directorate and related bodies in raising awareness on domestic violence, and pursuing a more active role in the investigation and follow up of domestic violence cases.
Other noteworthy new measures in this draft law include the right of minor victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to file a complaint through a trustee who has reached the legal age, and making it punishable for relatives of first degree (parents, siblings, children) to carry out or aid in carrying out FGM. If this law is passed by the parliament, medical practitioners such as doctors, pharmacists, midwives and chemists who hide any information on FGM carried out on minor victims would also face a ban on practicing their career from a minimum of three to a maximum of six months. This is in addition to the current maximum imprisonment of three years in case the medical practitioner carries out FGM himself or herself on a minor victim. Lastly, this draft law ensures a significant increment in financial penalties for those who violate the provisions prohibiting FGM.
MERI has disseminated the draft law to over two hundred local parliamentarians, legal experts and NGOs for consultation by way of written submission. The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2015. The consultants have also been invited to attend a workshop organized by MERI on January 14, 2015, after which a final draft will be formulated and submitted to the Kurdistan Region Parliament.
A Kurdish version of the Draft law can be viewed here. As part of its PVAW project, MERI shall furthermore continue with workshops and the implementation of Quality Assurance in all twenty-eight police stations for combating domestic violence in Kurdistan Region.
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About MERI: The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.
MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).