Post-war Iraq leaving women in same or worse shape than start of conflict

Photo credit: U.S. Army

By Kim Harris
shades Magazine

It has been two weeks since President Barack Obama announced an end to the war in Iraq and whether or not the unrest continues, Americans and Iraqis now have the unpleasant responsibility of picking up the pieces and acknowledging the damage of the seven-year war.

Among the wreckage, a particularly overlooked demographic of women – those over 30 and unmarried – have been left socially sidelined by the missed opportunities for marriage during war-time. For an Iraqi woman, it is typical to be married by her late teens or early 20’s.

Associated Press reported last week that the war destroyed hope for some women to marry, as many worthy suitors were killed or social ties were severed in the chaos of battle. According the report, the numbers of single over-30 women in Iraq are believed to be higher now than in the past, even considering the history of conflict in the region. This is believed to be in part caused by the hundreds of thousands who fled the country during the conflict, as well as women’s fear of leaving the home during war-time that eliminated chances for young women to meet men. Also, in the tough economic climate, many men are unable to afford what it costs to furnish a marriage and a family.

The women who are left single after war often live with a family member and some who rarely leave the house, are left to serve their family or watch over children. It is very difficult for these women to find jobs, as employers see them as vulnerable without a husband.

The problem has even prompted discussions, asking for government incentives for men to marry women over 30, but some women’s activists see this as a step backward, or as selling women as property. Other ideas include building the security of unmarried women by providing work and vocational skills so they may get by without a spouse.

The educational and economic disparities between men and women in Iraq are alarming, as well. According to a study by the Inter Agency Information and Analysis Unit, Iraqi women fall far behind Iraqi men in education and employment, with twice as many women illiterate than men, and only 18 percent of women participating in the labor force compared with 81 percent of men. The report also stated that one in five Iraqi women have experienced physical domestic violence and one in three women have experienced emotional abuse.

Read more on post-war Iraqi women:

On the Way Out, Washington Tramples on Iraqi Women

Iraq’s single women suffer in silence

Iraqui men may be paid to marry women over 35

Sex slave girls face cruel justice in Iraq

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