Picture: 123RF/Yupa Watchanakit
Picture: 123RF/Yupa Watchanakit

During the 16 days of activism highlighting violence against women and children in SA, the BBC World Service coincidentally flighted a programme called Undercover exposing the “legal” sex trade in Iraq.

It included disturbing insight into the plight of women and girls as young as 10 who are contracted into “temporary marriages” with older men for anything from a day to a month. While these transactions are illegal under Iraqi law, many clerics sanction the practice and the authorities seem to turn a blind eye.

Yet it is nothing less than trafficking; these children are condemned for life and live in fear that if their family members discover that they are not virgins they will be murdered in the name of family “honour”.

If this has not been brought to the attention of the department of international relations & co-operation and its minister and deputy minister — both women — it is surely their responsibility to find out about such human rights violations in a country with which SA maintains friendly relations. Iraq upgraded its representation in SA to the rank of ambassador in 2001.

The lot of women in most of the Arab world is one of the tragedies of our time. Women have no rights in most, and are simply regarded as chattels of their husbands, who have the power of life or death over their wives. Similar status applies to daughters, who can become victims of honour killings simply on rumours of sexual activity.

Yet these human rights and gender rights abuser countries are not targeted for opprobrium and diplomatic isolation like Israel, where gender violence and child abuse hardly exist. What then is the meaning of these 16 days of activism for violence against women and children?

Allan Wolman
Tel Baruch, Israel