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Apr 2, 2009, 3:46:39 AM4/2/09
'Worse than the Taliban' - new law rolls back rights for Afghan women

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan's
presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within
marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their
husbands' permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation
by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution's
equal rights provisions.
Jon Boone reveals Afghanistan's new law denying women's rights Link to this

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to
contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their
husbands' permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the
doctor with their husbands' permission, and that they cannot refuse their
husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for
Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and
grandfathers only.

Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan
parliament, said the law was "worse than during the Taliban". "Anyone who
spoke out was accused of being against Islam," she said.

The Afghan constitution allows for Shias, who are thought to represent about
10% of the population, to have a separate family law based on traditional
Shia jurisprudence. But the constitution and various international treaties
signed by Afghanistan guarantee equal rights for women.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, like other female parliamentarians, complained
that after an initial deal the law was passed with unprecedented speed and
limited debate. "They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation,"
she said. "There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they
didn't want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the

Although the ministry of justice confirmed the bill was signed by Karzai at
some point this month, there is confusion about the full contents of the
final law, which human rights activists have struggled to obtain a copy of.
The justice ministry said the law would not be published until various
"technical problems" had been ironed out.

After seven years leading Afghanistan, Karzai is increasingly unpopular at
home and abroad and the presidential election in August is expected to be
extremely closely fought. A western diplomat said the law represented a "big
tick in the box" for the powerful council of Shia clerics.

Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc
of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.

Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party,
said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the
Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women's rights.

"Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in
the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little
bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters."

Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with
her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable "excuse". And he
said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency
forced her to leave without permission.

The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning
such a politically sensitive issue.

"It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of
being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult,"
a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.

Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women's affairs at the Afghanistan Independent
Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been "disastrous for
women's rights in Afghanistan".

"What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had
got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we
could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change
it now. It's too late for that."

But another senior western diplomat said foreign embassies would intervene
when the law is finally published.

Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their
fight in parliament's lower house succeeded in improving the law, including
raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and
removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.

"It's not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it's a
huge improvement," said Shukria Barakzai, an MP. "Before this was passed
family issues were decided by customary law, so this is a big improvement."

Karzai's spokesman declined to comment on the new law.

La Cosa Nostradamus

Apr 2, 2009, 5:57:37 AM4/2/09

nice to see you care about them. what would it be like if we werent there
or in iraq ?

looking for a better newsgroup-reader? -


Apr 2, 2009, 2:11:21 PM4/2/09
"La Cosa Nostradamus" <a6f...@webnntp.invalid> wrote

> On Apr 2 2009 3:46 AM, Dutch wrote:
>> 'Worse than the Taliban' - new law rolls back rights for Afghan women

> nice to see you care about them.

Don't you?

> what would it be like if we werent there
> or in iraq ?

Iraq? Iraq had a secular government before the US invaded, so the plight of
women there is unlikely to improve by those actions. I have always been
opposed to that invasion.

Afghanistan is another issue, they had a very repressive Islamic
fundamentalist government that was also facilitating the training of
terrorists. I am not saying that the west should not be involved there, but
this development illustrates how difficult it will be advance the cause of
human rights there.

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