A bill was apparently signed into law by Afghani President Hamid Karzai that legalizes rape in marriage and forbids women to leave the house without permission. Thanks to reader Storm for the link from the Telegraph (entire contents of news story reproduced below):
The law, which has not been publicly released, is believed to state women can only seek work, education or doctor’s appointments with their husband’s permission.
Only fathers and grandfathers are granted custody of children under the law, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
Opponents of the legislation governing the personal lives of Afghanistan’s Shia minority have said it is “worse than during the Taliban”.
Mr Karzaihas been accused of electioneering at the expense of women’s rights by signing the law to appealto crucial Shia swing voters in this year’s presidential poll.
While the Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, it also allows the Shia community, thought to represent 10 per cent of the population, the right to settle family law cases according to Shia law.
The Shiite Personal Status Law contains provisions on marriage, divorce, inheritance, rights of movement and bankruptcy.
The bill passed both houses of the Afghan parliament, but was so contentious that the United Nations and women’s rights campaigners have so far been unable to see a copy of the approved bill.
Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, a female MP, said the law had been rushed through with little debate.
She told the Guardian newspaper: “They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation, “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 election.”
The Afghan justice ministry confirmed the law had been signed, but said it would not be published until technical difficulties had been overcome.
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai would not comment.
Huffington Post, which I really don’t trust much further than other gossip sites or the Drudge Report, also speaks about “tactic” legalization of child marriage, elaborates:
Details of the law emerged after Mr Karzai was endorsed by Afghanistan’s Supreme Court to stay in power until elections scheduled in August. Some MPs claimed President Karzai was under pressure from Iran, which maintains a close relationship with Afghanistan’s Shias. The most controversial parts of the law deal explicitly with sexual relations. Article 132 requires women to obey their husband’s sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least “once every four nights” when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.
A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Unifem, warned: “Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband”.
Most of Afghanistan’s Shias are ethnic Hazaras, descended from Genghis Khan’s Mongol army which swept through the entire region around 700 years ago. They are Afghanistan’s third largest ethnic group, and potential kingmakers, because their leaders will likely back a mainstream candidate.
Even the law’s sponsors admit Mr Karzai rushed it through to win their votes. Ustad Mohammad Akbari, a prominent Shia political leader, said: “It’s electioneering. Most of the Hazara people are unhappy with Mr Karzai.”
A British Embassy spokesman said diplomats had raised concerns “at a senior level”.
Now, the contents of the law are only rumored, and might not be as extreme as reported. One hopes not. But I wouldn’t be suprised. Horrified, but not suprised.
Equally disturbing as the alleged contents of the legislation, in a different way, is the fact that the text of a piece of federal legislation signed into law has not been made public. Afghani citizens can’t necessarily know what laws are on the books.
The US, NATO et.al. are only involved in Afghanistan to dismantle Taliban and al Qaeda; but one really has to wonder if all appropriate political pressures are being put on the government we’re propping up to afford basic civil rights to its citizens.
Probably not; but maybe. After living under a liberal democracy all their lives, most American citizens couldn’t argue with any degree of persuasion for the utility of guarantees to habeas corpus, sunshine provisions and robust guarantees of free speech. Now, we’re expecting a populace conditioned into what amounts to a Medieval worldview to bypass the arduous, centuries long contemplations on autonomy and liberty that the West collectively hashed out during the Reformation and Early Modernity, and skip right to the Enlightenment.
Filed under: international, international: East Asia, International: Indian subcontinent, International: Middle East, religion, religion: Islam, religion: Shia Islam, sexism, Sexual Violence | 1 Comment »