Bremer Says Iraq Moving Forward on Women's Rights
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 8, 2004 Though the signing of an interim Iraqi constitution was not originally scheduled for today International Women's Day -- the civilian administrator in Iraq called the signing a significant way to honor "the resilience, achievements and the promise of the women of Iraq" and a reminder of "how much further we need to go in pursuit of women's rights."
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III said the new Transitional Administrative Law, signed in Baghdad today following two delays, contains unprecedented protections for women, including strong guarantees of women's rights that can't be abolished.
"The law provides that the electoral system should aim to achieve the goal of having women constitute not less than 25 percent of the Transitional National Assembly," Bremer said. "This interim constitution is unprecedented in the region for its forward-thinking and progressive support of fundamental rights for all Iraqis, especially women."
Bremer said these protections represent a significant change for all Iraqis, but particularly for the country's women, who were subjected to 30 years of cruelty, degradation and inhumane treatment under Saddam Hussein.
"Television images cannot begin to capture the horror of Saddam's torture and rape rooms, or the mass graves which symbolize the misery and poverty inflicted on women through the regime's systematic killing of innocents," Bremer said.
Women also have been largely excluded from the political process in Iraq, and have been denied some of the most fundamental opportunities, such as access to education, Bremer said. Estimates of female illiteracy in Iraq run as high as 78 percent.
Bremer said the rights and status of women in the new Iraq has been an important issue in the debate that led to Iraq's interim constitution.
"Leaders from around the world have emphasized that the role of women in Iraq must not be neglected in the context of the country's emerging political structure," he said. "The coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council are working to ensure full and fair representation and equal rights for the women of Iraq."
Bremer called International Women's Day an appropriate time to step back and reflect on how far forward Iraq has moved in terms of women's rights, but also to look to steps still needed to be taken to assure women's rights.
"Iraq is now headed on the right path," Bremer said, "and women are helping lead the way."