Iraq - Social development

A social security law passed in 1971 provides benefits or payments for disability, maternity, old age, unemployment, sickness, and funerals. This law applies to all establishments employing five or more people, but excludes agricultural employees, temporary employees, and domestic servants. This social insurance system is funded by employee contributions of 5% of their wages, and employer contributions of 12% of payroll. Oil companies are required to pay 25% of payroll. Men may retire at age 60 and women at 55 after they have worked for 20 years. Maternity benefits for employed women include 100% of salary for a period of 10 weeks. Work injury is covered and unemployment assistance is available.

The government claims to support equality for women, who make up about 20% of the work force. Laws have been passed protecting women from sexual harassment, permitting them to join the police and armed forces, and equalizing their rights in divorce, land ownership, taxation, suffrage, and election to political office. Despite these government claims of legal equality, severe discrimination against women remains. Women are not allowed to travel abroad unaccompanied. In 1990, a decree was passed that provides immunity to men who kill female family members who have committed an "immoral" act.

Although Iraq's constitution guarantees individual rights, the government sharply limits political freedoms and tolerates little public expression of dissent. Suspected political offenders are subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and torture is common in such cases. The government executes perceived or alleged opponents. Amputations of limbs and branding are used to punish those accused of serious crimes. In 1995, the death penalty was established for persons found to be in possession of stolen goods.

Gross human rights violations continue to be committed. Iraq's minority Kurd population faces serious forms of discrimination and human rights abuses. The Iraqi government continued to harass and threaten relief workers and UN personnel in the area. The Iraqi government has refused to cooperate with international human rights organizations or to allow the establishment of independent local ones. Human rights monitors are denied visas to enter the country and must base their reports on published material and interviews with emigres and political opposition groups.

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