Iraq fights another form of violence - in the home

Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:16am EDT
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By Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - As the violence of sectarian warfare ebbs, Iraq's government has taken tentative first steps to combat another kind of violence -- domestic abuse, primarily against women.

The Interior Ministry has opened two "family protection" centers in Baghdad police stations, the first of their kind, to deal with cases of domestic violence.

The centers are staffed mainly by female social workers and investigators, an important step in Iraq's male-oriented culture to make women feel more comfortable about reporting abuse.

So far, because the centers are at police stations and domestic violence remains a taboo subject, few women have dared to go them for help. Yet the state Ministry of Woman's Affairs considers the centers to be a victory for Iraqi women who once had nowhere to turn.

"I always call this violence the untold crime because it did not end up always in the courts ... it's a serious issue if there are no civil centers or legal authority to resolve it," Azhar al-Shaarbaf, the ministry's legal expert.

Shaarbaf said Iraqi politicians once rejected the idea of women being abused and turned a blind eye to the issue.

"Now the political class comprehends the words 'abused woman,' which is progress, since the political class is the one that makes decisions," she said.

NO ABUSE DATA   Continued...