Palestinian women cautiously welcome new rights

Palestinian women watch the football match between Al-Nuseirat and Al-Jalaa standing outside the fence of the stadium at Nuseirat refugee camp, south of Gaza City, on January 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018

Palestinian women cautiously welcome new rights

AMMAN: Palestinian activists and human rights organizations welcomed on Monday measures by the government to give more rights to women.
The changes include the right of Palestinian women to pass on their citizenship to their children and to open bank accounts in their names.
The Cabinet also recommended to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a series of legal amendments that include canceling or amending laws that allow rapists to avoid punishment by marrying their victims.
The decisions were announced following the Cabinet session on Monday.
The recommendations include the abolition of Article 308 of a Jordanian law still in effect in Palestine. The Jordanian Parliament abolished Article 308 (which pardons rapists who marry their victim) last August. The Palestinian government also recommended changes to the 1960 penal code, which allowed for lower punishment for acts of violence carried out in so-called “honor crimes.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in a televised message that these changes “honor Palestinian women and that they are their rights and not a gift to them.” He vowed that more decisions advancing equality between women and men were planned.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights issued a statement welcoming the decisions, which comes ahead of Women’s Day on Thursday.
“More is needed to attain total equality and to be in total adherence with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly,” the commission said.
Salwa Hdaib, a member of the Fatah revolutionary council, told Arab News that Palestinian women’s goals for more equality were now much higher after recent changes to the law in other Arab countries such as Tunisia and Morocco.
“We deserve to have a much better legal system which truly equates the rights of men and women in political rights, in jobs and social justice,” she said.
Hdaib, who heads the Jerusalem Women's Movement, said that Palestinian women were still behind in divorce rights, inheritance and equal treatment in the courts.
“Palestinian women in general and women in Jerusalem have paid a huge price in the Palestinian struggle and they deserve nothing less than total equal rights and protection from their government and leaders.”
Lama Hourani, an activist in Ramallah and a community organizer, told Arab News that while she welcomed all improvements, she would wait and see what was in the amended laws that President Abbas will sign.
Hourani said that the personal status law, which covers issues including divorce, adoption and alimony, was in need of the most improvement. It includes laws that grant males twice the inheritance of a female.
“Until we reach total equality in our society we need to make major changes in the most important law in this regard, which is the personal status law. All other changes are nothing but cosmetic improvements.”
Hourani told Arab News that what was needed was to follow the signed international conventions that aimed to eliminate all forms of discrimination.


Iraq anti-corruption drive stops short of snaring worst culprits

Updated 16 min 20 sec ago

Iraq anti-corruption drive stops short of snaring worst culprits

  • Abdul Mahdi is ‘hostage to parties that appointed him a year ago to lead one of the world’s most corrupt countries’

BAGHDAD: Following a wave of deadly anti-government protests, Baghdad has announced a slew of measures to stem corruption — but stopped short of targeting the worst offenders.

Analysts say Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, an independent with no real popular support, is hostage to the parties that appointed him a year ago to lead one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

That makes it exceptionally hard for him to point fingers at the main culprits, they say.

Since dictator Saddam Hussein’s ouster in a US-led invasion in 2003, $450 billion have evaporated into thin air, either in fake contracts or deep into the pockets of corrupt politicians, according to official data.

“The question of corruption can only be dealt with seriously and decisively,” a government anti-corruption official said, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject.

“But the prime minister can’t do that because he knows that all (politicians) are involved and that they were chin deep in corrupt dealings well before he took up his post,” the official said.

Anti-graft campaign group Transparency International last year ranked Iraq the world’s 12th-most corrupt country, based on expert analysis and opinion surveys.

The problem is so endemic that Iraqis have a nickname for the biggest culprits: “Hitan,” Arabic for “whales.”

The official cited three common practices: Border guards taking bribes to waive customs duties, illegal petrol trading, and unlawful buying and selling of state-owned land and luxury homes.

The final practice, sometimes involving properties confiscated from ex-regime officials, implicates some parties and politicians currently in power, the official said.

An official from the office of the Petroleum Ministry’s inspector general said “many incidents of corruption” had been uncovered.

The department “managed to stop the construction of an oil pipeline to Jordan, because each kilometer was being priced at $1.5 million,” a price it deemed excessive, he said on condition of anonymity.

The operation snared oil traffickers and transport company owners “linked to corrupt parties,” he added.

But in a blow to officials working to tackle corruption, Parliament has “frozen” the work of anti-corruption offices that had been set up in each of Iraq’s ministries.

“This decision does nothing to improve the day-to-day lives of demonstrators who are strangled by poverty,” said the official, currently on enforced leave.

“It’s only going to encourage corrupt officials to keep doing what they want.” According to the official from the government’s anti-corruption commission, the decision to freeze the inspectors’ activities “targets low-ranking civil servants, while it is the mafias from the big parties” who are most at fault.

Abdul Mahdi has announced that “a list of names of 1,000 civil servants” accused of corruption had been referred to the courts.

Soon afterward, he promised, “a first list of high-ranking officials will be brought before justice.”

Among those named were ex-ministers and officials still in office, according to Abdul Mahdi’s office, although no names have yet been announced officially.

In recent years, at least two trade ministers have been convicted for corruption. But by the time their judgment was read, the ministers had already fled abroad. The problem is so widespread in Iraq that anti-corruption protests have become something of a tradition.

In the latest round, which erupted on Oct. 1, 110 people were killed — the vast majority of them protesters who were shot dead.

The spontaneity of the demonstrations, as well as their intensity, have put an unprecedented amount of pressure on the authorities, said MP Huda Sajjad.

Sajjad, an MP on the list of ex-PM Haider Abadi who is now in opposition, believes measures currently in place simply aren’t up to the task of stamping out corruption.

“The anti-corruption measures don’t meet expectations,” Sajjad said. “Corruption is what keeps all the parties working together in the system.” But the pressure on the government is relentless.

On Saturday and Sunday, firebrand Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr called on supporters to turn this weekend’s Arbaeen religious commemorations into anti-corruption rallies.

Protesters have called for fresh demonstrations on Oct. 25 — the first anniversary of Abdul Mahdi’s government.