IRAQ: A Lone Woman in Iraq's New Cabinet

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Western Asia
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The new Iraqi government, which received a vote of confidence from parliament on Tuesday, is almost exclusively male, with the exception of a lone woman who is a minister without portfolio.

Bushra Hussein Saleh is a deputy from Fadhila, a small Shiite fundamentalist party that is a member of the National Alliance grouping of Shiite parties.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pointed to the lack of women candidates as a reason for his delay in proposing candidates for 10 remaining cabinet posts.

"I find myself obliged ... to wait for the political entities to present women candidates," he said.

Kurdish MP Ala Talabani railed against the dearth of female ministers on Tuesday: "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries," she said.

"Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism," she said.

"The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women," she said to applause.

The constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits discrimination based on gender.