The Kurdistan Regional Government is committed to the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993 that defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Since 2008 and in coordination with the Kurdistan Parliament, the Kurdistan Regional Government has taken important steps to legally protect women rights. Amending Iraqi Personal Status Law in 2008 [No. 188 of 1959] and ratifying Article Eight on Elimination of Domestic Violence in 2011, which outlaws any gender-based violence, are milestones in the protection of women rights.
The so called ‘honor killing’ that was overlooked by the Iraqi law and used as an excuse to justify killing women, has been completely banned in Kurdistan, and the crime is considered as intentional homicide. The Kurdistan Region has also banned all forms of forced marriages and female circumcision, restricted polygamy, and reformed inheritance law to guarantee a fair share for females.
By revising and introducing these laws, the differences in protection of women rights between the Kurdistan Region and other parts of Iraq have become immense. These laws have enabled the Kurdistan Regional Government to take practical and systematic steps to curb violence against women. The government has established a directorate for combating violence against women, and established shelters for women under threat. It has also established courts and appointed special prosecutors within police stations to investigate cases related to violence against women.
These were daring, unprecedented and important steps in our Region. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the late thinker and scholar Mustafa Zalmi, who answered our call and played a major role in reforming the Personal Status Law and ratifying Elimination of Domestic Violence Law. Religious scholars also played a major role in supporting the steps mentioned above in the Kurdistan Region.