There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq since the days of Saddam Hussein's regime, according to the Women's Rights Association (WRA), a
The WRA recently conducted an in-depth study into the sexual abuse of women after receiving continued allegations of such maltreatment since December 2005. While fewer than five cases were reported per year in the Hussein's era, nearly 60 women have been raped in Baghdad since February, while another 80 were abused in other ways, according to the NGO.
"We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital," said Mayada Zuhair, spokeswoman for the WRA, adding that this is causing panic among women who have to walk alone.
Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalisation of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war. According to Zuhair, women of all ages face abuse, while there are also cases of men and boys being raped by unidentified gangs. "Given the current insecurity, these incidents could increase if the government doesn't take urgent measures to stop these gangs," she said.
The Ministry of Interior has issued notices warning women not to go out alone. "This is a Muslim county and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said senior ministry official Salah Ali. "These gangs will pay for the pain they've caused." Ali added that several rape cases were currently being investigated and urged women to report any abuse.
In mosques, both Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have used their weekly sermons to spread awareness of this issue and have advised their largely male congregations to keep women safe at home rather than allowing them go out to work.
“These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a central mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work – especially with the current lack of security in the country.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions