Article 57 Amendment: Another Attack on Women’s Rights in Iraq

by Huda Samir

Despite the poverty, destitution, and loss of job opportunities that Iraqi society suffers from,  Despite the public demands to end sectarianism and corruption in government institutions, Despite the urgent need to enact deterrent laws against murder, domestic violence, rape and abuse. Despite the Iraqi streets being filled with beggars of all ages, despite the increased suicide rates of young people who are supposed to be enjoying their youth, the Iraqi government and its sectarian parliament  decided to make amendments to Article 57 which will change the rights of women yet again.

The original article 57 of 188 civil law of 1959  stated that divorced mothers keep custody of their children until the age of 18. The new 57 amendment will limit the custody to the age of seven years old, after which custody is entrusted to the father and his family.

This reactionary and sectarian government does not care about the child’s needs, safety or rights. Of all the issues the Iraqi people face, this should be the least of the government’s worry. They have yet to act or take any interest in the Iraqi children since they took office in 2003. As people, we must ask ourselves two questions; who called for this amendment and who would benefit from these amendments?

Discussing and amending article 57 on child custody was a premeditated move. It was deliberate. The sectarian government used this amendment as a distraction from the demands of the Iraqi people. The demands of Iraqi citizens include increased job opportunities, unemployment benefits, better living conditions, and women rights. This amendment change specifically came weeks after Iraqi women demanded  domestic violence laws to be put into place, and instead of following through, the government used this amendment as a push back against Iraqis. Instead of the government bringing people together and unifying to mourn countless people who have been killed or wounded throughout the protests. They’re using Article 57 as a way to attack these activists. This amendment is being used as a way to split the people’s demands and fight  for economic stability and better living conditions.

Iraqi feminists should be working toward liberation and raising awareness of the injustices that  Iraqi women face every day.  Instead their most basic right to motherhood is being attacked. Instead of demanding the criminalization of domestic violence, women now have to take five steps back and start demanding that this amendment does not pass. Instead of fighting for the criminalization of beating, burning, and raping women, these women now have to add fighting to keep their children into their fight for basic human rights. Out of all the laws that this miserable government could have amended or implemented, they chose to again go after the basic rights of women in motherhood .

The government’s discussing and working on amending Article 57 on child custody is not a stupid move at all, and it did not come from a vacuum or lack of vision. This is never the case. It is a deliberate step to break up the demands of the Iraqi people to obtain  job opportunities,  unemployment benefits, better living conditions and  to take away women’s rights, and to push them back again.

The amendment should not be a debate at all. This has sparked a lot of discontent and rejection among activists, civilians, and human rights organizations. This new amendment, if passed, will be a stain of shame on the face of this miserable government and their loyalists.  It is the government’s way  empowered by capitalism and racism to discourage activists, human rights organizations and women as a whole from working toward a better future with equality and freedom. It is a deliberate plan to break the unity of the people.

Human Rights Organizations, civilians, and women, in particular, must stand together against any law or amendment under this government. This government does not and will not represent the majority of the people. This amendment aims to tear women from their most basic wants and needs and that is downright unacceptable. Iraqi women deserve to live in a country that allows them to have their basic needs met, without having to die or struggle for those needs.

Huda Samir

October 4, 2020