Canadian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan so the democratically elected gov't can enact Taliban-like laws
The Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai has signed off on a law that would legalize rape within marriage and severely limit the legal rights of women.
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 election.”
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 The justice ministry said the law would not be published until various “technical problems” had been ironed out.
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, came under intense western pressure yesterday to scrap a new law that the UN said legalised rape within marriage and severely limited the rights of women.
At a conference on Afghanistan in The Hague, Scandinavian foreign ministers publicly challenged the Afghan leader to respond to a report on the new law in yesterday's Guardian, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was reported to have confronted Karzai on the issue in a private meeting.
At a press conference after the meeting, Clinton made clear US displeasure at the apparent backsliding on women's rights. “This is an area of absolute concern for the United States. My message is very clear. Women's rights are a central part of the foreign policy of the Obama administration,” she said.
Canada's government has also reacted. From the March 31 CP story on CTV.ca:
“If these reports are true, this will create serious problems for Canada,” said International Trade Minister Stockwell Day.
“The onus is on the government of Afghanistan to live up to its responsibilities for human rights, absolutely including rights of women …
“If there's any wavering on this point from the government of Afghanistan, this will create serious problems and be a serious disappointment for us.”
Day was fielding questions in the House of Commons about the reported law while his colleague, Cannon, was in Europe attending an international summit on Afghanistan. …
Late Tuesday, Canadian officials said they had learned the law was not yet in effect but that they remained “very concerned.”