As men continue to join the fighting in Iraq, women are being pushed into desperate and dangerous situations.
A recent survey published by the Iraqi Women’s Journalists Forum (IWJF) found that eight in 10 women in Iraq have suffered some form of sexual harassment.
The poll conducted by the Baghdad-based NGO also found an increasing number of women are experiencing the harassment in public.
Historically, Iraqi women and girls have had more rights than women in other countries across the Middle East. Women were formally granted equal rights in Iraq’s constitution in the 1970s, which allowed them to go to school, vote, run for political office and own property.
But that began to change after the 1991 Gulf War with the United States.
Women and girls were disproportionately affected by the conflict and the United Nations’ economic sanctions that followed, limiting access to food, healthcare and education.
The US-led invasion in 2003 worsened the situation dramatically.
Hanaa Edwar, who runs the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, a women’s rights group, is campaigning to change that.
She says decades of successive wars, economic sanctions, sectarian violence, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, and the growing influence of tribal culture are all tearing at the fabric of Iraqi society.
“One of the things that preoccupies me and some of the other women’s rights activists is the damaging of the moral ethics inside the country – because there are no moral ethics now,” she told Al Jazeera.