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Negotiating Rights in Iraq: Women and the Personal Status Law

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Recent attempts to abolish the Personal Status Law, in force since 1959, with the intent of placing family matters in the hands of religious authorities, caused an uproar among Iraqi women's rights activists. This article seeks to place the protest in its historical context by tracing women's participation in shaping the Personal Status Law - touching upon both their achievements and disappointments. It highlights the threat that repealing the law would pose, not only to the advancements for which women activists have struggled long and hard, but more importantly to the very channel which made these achievements possible. It also exposes the “hidden costs” of the protest. Activists' energies were diverted into preserving a law which left many demands unanswered, and away from promoting improved legislation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2005

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