Karzai Votes in Law that Leads to Massive Scale-backs in Women’s Rights.

This was an unfortunate move prior to the election in an effort to bow to fundamentalists.

In a massive blow for women’s rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.
“It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century,” fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. “It is totally against women’s rights. This law makes women more vulnerable.”

Women’s rights advocates are suggesting that this law essentially legalizes rape. Via Independent UK and more at Huffington Post and Think Progress.

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    He did this as a political move to please certain demographic groups… Ugh.

  • Merk

    I find it terrible in equal measures that:
    a) an elected President would legalize rape on a mass scale to further his own career, and
    b) that there is a large group (hell, any number) of extremists who wish that upon the women they call mothers, daughters, sisters and wives

  • Lydia Encyclopedia

    That’s what makes it the most horrifying of all. Universal human rights forsaken to advance one man’s career?

  • srsly

    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.
    o. m. g.

  • Véronique

    This is disgusting. If NATO is going to support this government, it should make sure the country’s constitution does not allow this sort of thing. If legislation like this can be passed, the constitution is worthless.

  • Gopher

    Vile. I feel for these women. I hope they have some sort of form of revokation.

  • Lauren

    I encourage everyone to contact the US State Department (or its equivalent in your own country) and ask them to do what they can to stop this law diplomatically.
    You can find a few templates for such letters in the comments thread here (Melissa McEwan’s template in the 2nd comment is easiest to find).

  • kbkb

    there are many horrible aspects to this law. among them is the fact that it is being labeled as “sharia”. comments at the Independent indicate that some people are taking this as an indication that Islam condones marital rape and the idea that women can’t leave the house without permission.
    nowhere in the qur’an is behavior such as this explicitly or implicitly condoned. the controversial passage in which men are allowed to hit their wives if they are in repeated disagreement with them can alternatively (and correctly) be translated as to “leave” one’s wife.
    and nowhere in the hadith (the extensive collection of notes on what the Prophet said and did while he was alive) was it indicated that he beat, raped, or imprisoned his wives. Mohammed’s first wife, in fact, was a business woman who managed her own wealth. they met when she employed him to trade on her behalf. SHE proposed to HIM, and some accounts of their marriage indicate that she managed the household and business so he could have time to meditate.
    what we have with this law is the use of religion to reinforce and buttress cultural preferences.

  • nella

    I read about this today in the Independent. Its so sad, But Karzai is not very popular and needs shia votes.
    The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

  • SodiumSkies

    If it helps anyone, here’s a form letter you can copy, and paste into your representative or senator’s online contact form, or you could use it to write and mail an actual letter.
    Dear [Policy Maker]:
    I am a resident of [hometown], and a [occupation or other personal fact]. Thank you for your service to our state.
    I write to you to urge take action on the following matter. Earlier this month, President Hamid Karzai gave his approval to a law which gives Shia husbands authority over their wives. This law requires the permission of a woman’s husband before she may seek employment, medical care, or education.
    The law further requires that women submit to their husbands’ sexual demands. The United Nations calls this tantamount to the legalization of rape. I agree with this characterization of the law, and insist that you do the same.
    Rape is one of the serious of crimes. In a moment, it destroys the spirits of women and leaves them to suffer the pain of that moment for the rest of their lives. The United States and its allies are aiding in Afghanistan’s reconstruction to restore the rights denied to women under the Taliban. Now Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, says that this law creates a situation for women “worse than during the Taliban”. This is unacceptable.
    Secretary of State Clinton has already expressed her concern: “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.” Please stand with Secretary Clinton on this issue, and use your position to express your opposition to this law.

  • Miss Kitty

    This morning there was a fairly good story on this point on the “Globe & Mail” – a Canadian national paper. Then I read the “Comments” section (which, I realize, is usually a disappointing mistake). I’m saddened (but not totally shocked) at the sexism and racism that is embedded in some of the comments. Here is the link, for anyone interested:

  • elly simmons

    Afghanistan has signed and ratified CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) which generally means nothing (cause countries like Saudi Arabia has signed CEDAW too but still have horrific perspectives of women’s rights). But its possible for the Committee to do something because these policies are a clear breach of international law. Can CEDAW step up to the plate and take on this new sexist legislation? I certainly hope so.

  • MissKittyFantastico

    What exactly is the U.S. presence in Afganistan these days?

  • aussie

    I certainly hope that the UN Division for the Advancement of Women does something regarding these laws as they are clearly in breach of CEDAW policies.
    I, however, do not think that the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women “generally means nothing”. I think that in many countries (not all by any means) it has provided a framework for working towards elimination of discrimination towards women.
    I think it’s about time the USA ratifies the CEDAW!

  • littleblue

    I heard on the Canadian NPR broadcast last night that the upside to this that divorced women now won’t lose custody of their children until those children turn 9. That’s up from 2 for boys and 7 for girls.
    Totally, utterly shocking. Obviously The West is in Afghanistan to spread democracy and it’s totally working. [/sarcasm.]

  • elly simmons

    I agree with you Aussie, I tend to make loud statements about things and then realize I was being dramatic. Of course CEDAW has created a framework for women’s rights that many countries have possibly followed. Its not completely useless, and could in fact be put to good human rights use one day if everyone stopped putting so many reservations, understandings and declarations on the darn thing. But I say possibly, because who really knows if ratifying CEDAW has done countries any good. For example Britain has some of the most reservations on CEDAW, but its national Human Rights Act that was implemented in 98 was what pushed forth a lot of gender rights issues into legislation, not its ratification of CEDWAW. In most countries signing CEDAW has done little to change state policies on women’s rights. Personally I feel like ratifying CEDAW is a way for a country to pretend they are making significant advancement in women’s rights, but its a sham. There are no enforcement mechanism besides the Committee (if the nation has signed the Optional Protocol) therefore countries like Afghanistan can be let off the hook because they have ratified the convention, while activists focus there attention on getting America to ratify on convention that as it stands, might be just a piece of paper.
    Whats the worst thing the Commission can do to nations that bridge the object and purpose of CEDAW? Write a country report on how terrible women’s rights are in that nation. And then what? What can signing CEDAW actually do in situations like the present?

  • Elizabeth

    This story basically makes my soul hurt. However, the fact that this law passed just goes to show that even without the laws (like this one) in place, there is still much discrimination of women going on.

  • era4allNOW

    Thanks for this! I just sent my version of it to my 2 senators and congressman, and to the US State Dept. I hope everyone else does too!!

  • mollybee

    Agreed. The fact that the beliefs are so strong that its now enforced as a law makes me nauseous. However, law or not, these men who share these beliefs might still rape/threaten their wives into obedience.

  • Elizabeth

    Heck, that happens in the United States, and were ”civilized.” Just this afternoon in class, I watched a documentary about the juvenile system here in IN, and there was a 7th grader that had a baby, and the state took the baby from her because she was so young (and she was already a ward of the state). The father was 19. You can’t tell me that wasn’t coerced sex of any type— this problem is here in the ”modern” world too.

  • aleks

    More likely to save the government from collapse.

  • aleks

    More likely to save the government from being toppled, or delay that toppling.

  • aleks

    To help the NATO-allied government keep control of the parts of the country (Kabul) that the Taliban hasn’t already taken control of.

  • aleks

    The problem is excessive democracy. The periods of time when women had the most rights in Afghanistan were when the Soviets ruled it and after we conquered it.

  • http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hvWEqwq3CrRvaQCmt21MfoYhjZJQD97BONJO0 phoenix

    Update: under international pressure (including “sharp remarks” from Pres. Obama), Karzai says he will review the law.

  • MarissaAO

    The thing with this is – what other courses of action are open to Karzai? Who are his political opponents, and how threatened is he? How important are such laws to him being re-elected, and how different would a new government be? To what extent will his image be weakened by acquiescing to foreign demands?
    The problem here might be characterized as one of excessive democracy, as aleks points out. I think it’s more one of uneven democracy. What NATO should be doing is the type of security and development work that makes it easier for women to attend school and go into business. Encourage conditions in which women will have some kind of political voice. Just having stern words with Karzai will only raise resentment, I think.