Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced yesterday that his government will revise a controversial law that would severely restrict women’s rights by legalizing rape within marriage, among other provisions. Karzai told CNN that he was unaware of these provisions when he signed the law last month and that he has instructed “that the law be revised and any article that is not in keeping with the Afghan constitution and Islamic Sharia must be removed from this law.”
The proposed law has incited international and local outrage. Just this week, hundreds of Afghan women protesting the law in Kabul were outnumbered and pelted with small stones by counterprotesters. In a statement, the groups who organized the protest said that the law “insults dignity of women as fellow human beings and increases ethnocentrism and inequality,” The Guardian reported.
Karzai’s recent comments confirm statements made last weekend by Said Jawa, Afghan Ambassador to the US. Jawad told Bloomberg that the law “will not become the law because it contradicts some important principles of the Afghan constitution” and that President Karzai does not plan to publish it. Jawad also said Karzai signed the law without being aware of all of its provisions and has sent the likely unconstitutional law to be reviewed by the Afghan Ministry of Justice and the Afghan Supreme Court.
According to The Guardian the law 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.