Although officials are keen to attribute the rise in the recorded cases to an increase in awareness among women, others appear somewhat alarmed by the figures.
“Four years after this law was passed, the General Directorate for Combating Violence against Women has been established [by the Kurdish government], and about 1,000 police officers have been allotted to deal with domestic violence cases. Yet we see no significant decline in domestic violence,” said Banaz Taha, a former junior research fellow at the largely KRG-funded MERI, who coordinated the efforts to prepare the amendment draft. “Statistics and practice demonstrate that loopholes in this law are still hampering it from achieving its purpose and objective.”
A key focus of the MERI draft is on female genital mutilation (FGM) and tougher penalties for the violation.
In the case of FGM, the Iraqi-German nongovernmental organization WADI estimates that around 72% of adult women in Iraqi Kurdistan have undergone the operation.
But among girls aged 6 to 10, the rate has dropped to close to zero in some parts of Kurdistan, such as Halabja and Garmiyan, and decreased by half in other places such as Raniya. The usual age for the practice is between ages 4 and 8, according to WADI.
Researchers and activists such as Taha are quick to point out that the existing anti-domestic violence law in Kurdistan, passed in 2011, is likely to be the first of its kind in Asia to address FGM.
The draft allows girls subjected to FGM to file lawsuits against the perpetrator and those who forced them to undergo the operation. If the girl is a minor, she can file a lawsuit through a trustee.