In the first ever Resolution on the Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders Paragraph 16
“Calls upon States to implement, effectively and expeditiously, Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000, 1820 (2008) of 19 June 2008, 1888 (2009) of 30 September 2009, 1889 (2009) of 5 October 2009, 1960 (2010) of 16 December 2010, 2106 (2013) of 24 June 2013 and 2122 (2013) of 18 October 2013 on women and peace and security, including through the provision of gendersensitivity training for police officers and law enforcement personnel, inter alia, on the barriers that women human rights defenders face in gaining access to justice in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, ensuring the inclusion of sexual violence in the definition of acts prohibited by ceasefires and in provisions for ceasefire monitoring and the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes, as a step towards the effective protection of women, including women human rights defenders”
Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) play an important role within the women, peace and security (WPS) framework. WHRDs work includes advocating against and documenting abuses, defending women’s and minorities rights, and observing human rights trends in their community. One critical element that the Security Council and Member States focus the least on is root cause analysis.
Iraq was the first Arab State to launch a National Action Plan to implement UN Resolution 1325 in 2014. A year after Iraq launched an Emergency Nation Action Plan (NAP) after ISIL ripped through Iraq and Syria. Iraq is witnessing an active conflict with State and non-state actors as well as civil strife. There are reports of abduction, femicide, trafficking, S/GBV, sexual slavery, restriction of movements, strict dress codes and coercive marriages especially in underage girls. The NAP acknowledges women’s rights as human rights, as well as Iraqis women’s participation in peacekeeping. Iraq has adopted the Strategy on Anti-Violence against Women in 2013 and recently approved the National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women (2018–30). Iraq Kurdistan adopted the Law Against Domestic Violence (No.8 of 2011).
Yet there is a clear gap between policy and reality. Patriarchal norms and laws still discriminate against women and girls. Article 41 (1) of the Penal Code (No.111 of 1969) states;
There is no crime if the act is committed while exercising a legal right. The following are considered to be in exercise of a legal right:
- The punishment of a wife by her husband, the disciplining by parents and teachers of children under their authority within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom
Furthermore, Article 123 (1) excuses crimes that committed under “honourable motives”;
Legal excuse either discharges a person from a penalty or reduces that penalty. Excuse only exists under conditions that are specified by law. Notwithstanding these conditions, the commission of an offence with honourable motives or in response to the unjustified and serious provocation of a victim of an offence is considered a mitigating excuse.
And Article 409 reads that the punishment for a man catching his wife or girlfriend in the act adultery and kills them is only punishable by three years of imprisonment.
Any person who surprises his wife in the act of adultery or finds his girlfriend in bed with her lover and kills them immediately or one of them or assaults one of them so that he or she dies or is left permanently disabled is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 3 years. It is not permissible to exercise the right of legal defense against any person who uses this excuse nor do the rules of aggravating circumstance apply against him.
Judges can use their discretionary power to reduce the sentence but not increase it. Women do not have the same rights in the context of adultery.
On the ground these laws harm women and girls despite the NAP calling for women’s participation in politics and enhancing gender equality. Domestic violence is prevalent in Iraq and Kurdistan. Between February 2014 and May 2015, ASUDA, obtained details of 1,249 cases of domestic violence across seven Iraqi cities. The perpetrates of 71% of the cases were husband. The lack of shelters puts women at risk for further violence. The OHCHR Special Rapporteur has voiced their concern at the lack of public funding for shelters and the targeting of NGOs who fill this gap. An example is The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) which seeks to promote women human rights, and raise awareness about women’s safety in the country. One strategy of protecting women is setting up clandestine shelters for survivors of S/GBV. The Founder Yanar Mohammed delivered a statement on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security on 13 October 2015;
“When I speak about the enslavement of women, I am speaking of the countless women being trafficked, in both ISIS and government-controlled areas. For example, over 3,000 Yazidi women and other minorities were enslaved by ISIS fighters. We at the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq have documented the execution of over 150 women in one area controlled by ISIS, because they refused to obey the so-called “Islamic State.”
In the absence of government-sponsored services, local women’s groups meet the needs of those most vulnerable to the conflict. We are at the forefront of providing aid and services in places unreachable by international aid organizations. Yet we remain vastly underrepresented in our efforts to prevent and address conflict and violent extremism. Our rights are not protected, let alone promoted.”
OWFI is a WHRD organization that has filled the gap between UNSCR 1325 and realities on the ground by providing shelters and empowering women through their radio service and providing medical, counselling and legal services. As Ms Mohammed argues WHRDs and WHRD organization are underrepresented and not protected which put them at risk to harassment, violence and stigmatisation by State and non-State actors.
WHRDs and women-led organizations involvement with UN Security Council and the WPS agenda ensures that the Council is well informed on the situation on the ground. Their input and expertise mean that the Security Council is fully informed when making decisions. The WPS agenda should open its work to actively include WHRDs in its resolutions. As the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights argues, broadening the agenda ensures that the Security Council reaches informed decisions as well as reaching the goals on the UN Charter. WHRDs are best equipped with understanding and documenting trends. As Amy Dwyer writes, “WHRDs operate on the frontline, being present before international actors arrive and remaining long after they depart.” Patriarchal and sexist laws that discriminate against women and girls are exacerbated during and after conflicts. They must not fall in the rhetoric of vulnerability who need protecting by the UN, but active citizens whose work needs to be acknowledged, promoted and protected within the WPS agenda.
 Senem Kaptan, ‘UNSC 1325 At 20 Years: Perspectives From Feminist Peace Activists And Civil Society’ (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Women, Peace and Security Programme 2020) < https://www.wilpf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/WILPF_UNSCR-1325-at-20-Years_Web.pdf > accessed 29 November 2021, pg.8
 The Federal Government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government, ‘National Action Plan For The Implementation Of The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 Women, Peace And Security’ (2014) < https://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/final_draft_Iraq-_nap_1325_eng.pdf > accessed 29 November 2021.
 UNFPA and the Government of Iraq, ‘The National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women and Girls 2018-2030’ ( 2020) < https://iraq.unfpa.org/en/publications/national-strategy-combat-violence-against-women-and-girls-2018-2030> accessed 29 November 2021.
Iraq, ‘Iraq: Act of Combating Domestic Violence in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Law No. 8 of 2011)’ (2011) <: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5b2911044.html> accessed 29 November 2021
 Iraq, ‘Iraq: Penal Code [Iraq], No. 111 of 1969’ (1969) <https://www.refworld.org/docid/452524304.html> accessed 29 November 2021
 Miriam Puttick, ‘The Lost Women Of Iraq: Family-Based Violence During Armed Conflict’ (Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International 2015) < https://minorityrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/MRG-report-A4_OCTOBER-2015_WEB.pdf > accessed 29 November 2021, pg. 11
 United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on her mission to Iraq*, A/HRC/38/44/Add.1 (20 June 2018) < https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/185/94/PDF/G1818594.pdf?OpenElement> accessed 29 November 2021
 Benedetta Argentieri, ‘Meet the Creator Of A Secret Network Of Women’s Shelters In Iraq’ (Quartz, 2015) <https://qz.com/536078/meet-the-creator-of-a-secret-network-of-womens-shelters-in-iraq/#site-navigation> accessed 29 November 2021
 United Nations, ‘Reprisals Against Women Human Rights Defenders And Women Peacebuilders Who Engage With The Security Council And Its Subsidiary Bodies – Security Council Arria Formula Meeting | UN Web TV’ (Media.un.org, 2020) < https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1b/k1bd0zojxo > accessed 29 November 2021.
 Amy Dwyer, ‘Women Human Rights Defenders: Left Behind In The Women, Peace And Security Agenda’ (Centre for Women, Peace and Security 2020) < https://www.lse.ac.uk/women-peace-security/assets/documents/2020/PBS01Dwyer.pdf > accessed 29 November 2021.pg. 3