At a time when insecurity is on the rise in Baghdad, women and girls in Baghdad told Human Rights Watch that the insecurity and fear of sexual violence or abduction is keeping them in their homes, out of schools, and away from work and looking for employment. The failure of the occupying power to protect women and girls from violence, and redress it when it occurs, has both immediate and long-term negative implications for the safety of women and girls and for their participation in post-war life in Iraq.
Reports of sexual violence and abduction of women and girls abound in Baghdad. Medical practitioners, victims, witnesses, and law enforcement authorities have documented some of these crimes. Human Rights Watch is concerned that many other cases go unreported and uninvestigated. Some women and girls fear that reporting sexual violence may provoke “honor” killings and social stigmatization. For others, the obstacles to filing and pursuing a police complaint or obtaining a forensic examination that would provide legal proof of sexual violence hamper them from receiving medical attention and pursuing justice. Without a referral from the police, women and girls cannot receive forensic examinations and, in some cases, women and girls who have sought assistance for sexual violence were refused medical attention because some hospital staff do not regard treating victims of
sexual violence as their responsibility, or give such care low priority given their limited resources due to the war and in its aftermath. Whatever the reason, both documented and rumored stories of sexual violence and abduction are contributing to a palpable climate of fear.