Afghan Women's Rights may be Severely Restricted by New Law
A new Shia family law signed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai sometime last month, but not yet published, would severely restrict women's rights in Afghanistan. Karzai, according to news sources, signed the bill to court the Hazara vote in the upcoming presidential election. The law has not yet been published, but according to The Guardian contains provisions that would restrict women from leaving their homes, working, going to school, or obtaining medical care without their husbands’ permission. The law also includes a provision that women cannot refuse their husbands sex and a provision that grants child custody only to men. Ustad Mohammad Akbari, leader of the Hazara party, told The Guardian that the law gives women the right to refuse sex with their husbands if they are ill or have a "reasonable excuse" and allows women the right to leave their homes without permission in an emergency.
Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who worked against the legislation, told The Independent UK that the law "is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century….It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable."
The Globe and Mail reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the law "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."
Also yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed the International Conference on Afghanistan at The Hague. Among his remarks, the Secretary General said "we will continue to work to protect human rights, especially for women and girls. Women should be free to work, teach and live without oppression and fear. And children -- especially girls -- must be given the education that will help them build a better future for Afghanistan."
Media Resources: Globe and Mail 4/1/09; Remarks of Ban Ki Moon 3/31/09; The Guardian 3/31/09; The Independent UK 3/31/09; Feminist Majority Foundation