The General Federation of Iraqi Women: A forward feminist movement in Iraq?
Gender issues are not exclusively reserved for Western countries, quite the contrary. Despite the general assumption, that women have no saying in the Middle East, the General Federation of Iraqi Women proves otherwise.
The role of women in the Middle East is widely discussed in Western countries, however, very often gender issues are simplified and put into stark contrast to the seemingly equal stand in Western societies.
General Federation of Iraqi Women: Social and Political Progress
But especially in bigger cities, women in the Middle East have possibilities to study and do pretty much everything they want and the General Federation of Iraqi Women (GFIW) that strives for more rights and equality is not something of the 21st century but has been formed in the late 60s.
In fact, the GFIW was established on March 4 and since then worked hard to give women a better stand, further the progress in emancipation and accentuate the female role in culture and religion.
But there is not just some 68 movement within the GFIW, their Federation’s laws also include the fight, to come together and – besides establishing equal rights – overcome imperialists, Zionists, support movements against colonialism and imperialism and generally have a strong presence in political activities.
The more feminist goals are literacy amongst women, childcare, maternity leave, equal wages and political as well as economic emancipation.
Throwback and hidden political agenda
Many goals of the GFIW have taken a hard blow after the Gulf war and then again after the invasion of the US troupes around 2003/2004.
Positive changes in education and maternity leaves were turned back to rather dissatisfying levels despite the fact that Iraqi women’s rights were considered the most forward in Arab at the very beginning oft he 21st century.
The GFIW managed to exchange the Islamic family law with the secular law, therefore giving women the right to inheritance and prohibiting polygamy unless the first wife was a.) ill and unable to have a baby and b.) agreed to it.
Born out of Ba’thist movements in the early 60s, the political Party still is a strong force within the GFIW and even financed the Women’s Museum in Baghdad, however, since the US invasion, it has been quiet around the Federation and so far, there is no real indication that it still exists.
There has been criticism that the heavy Ba’thist involvement was the main reason for the GFIW and that their main goal was to manipulate the members for their own political goals. Whether that is true or not, the Federation has enabled the first woman in parliament and even if she is rumored to only have been functioning as a face to a hidden political agenda, she opened doors for numerous other female politicians.
Whether controlled or not, the GFIW has enabled a shift in the way women’s rights are perceived not only in society but are enabled in politics.
More on the GFIW and women’s rights under Saddam can be read here.