by Diana Sands, LGTB Program Associate at the Unitarian Universalist UN Office.

Last week, Human Rights Watch released a much-anticipated report on a truly horrifying campaign of human rights violations in Iraq called “They Want Us Exterminated”: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq. This 67-page report documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009.

If you have heard about this issue in Iraq you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with women if the report documents a systematic campaign of torture and murder against men?” The answer is simple: These attacks constitute gender-based violence because they are perpetrated against men who are believed by the attackers to engage in homosexual conduct and also against men whose behavior or gender expression is judged to be “effeminate.” Fear or hatred of feminized men boils down to hatred of women or misogyny. These human rights violations should concern everyone, but it is critical that those of us who have dedicated our work to fighting gender-based violence – especially when it is committed in the name of faith – recognize it as such and do what we can to help stop this campaign of torture and murder. It is also worthwhile to remind (as is noted in the report) that Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) calls on states “To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all iraq0809other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”

Iraq ratified CEDAW in 1986, but the Iraqi authorities have done nothing to try to stop this murderous campaign or to hold any of its perpetrators accountable. I hope that you all will take the time to read this insightful report and take action on the recommendations.

Read and download the full report here.