Afghan Legislator Calls for Enforcement of Chaperones for Women

Afghan women would be forbidden to travel without a male chaperone if a male member of the Afghan parliament has his way. Al-Haji Abdul Jabbar Shalgarai called the participation of two women members of parliament in a major donor’s conference “un-Islamic” and a violation of the law because they traveled without their husbands, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Shalgarai cited sharia law, which allows women to travel for more than three days only if they are accompanied by a male relative.

Shalgarai invoked the protection of women as the purpose for requiring male chaperones, saying, “If someone else’s woman is sitting in the same row of seats as you, well, human beings have different drives, including sexual drives. Sometimes these cannot be controlled…,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.

Although women’s rights are guaranteed in the Afghan Constitution, there is a constitutional provision stating that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” The Feminist Majority and other women’s rights and human rights advocates raised concerns about this provision and other language that leaves issues not addressed in the constitution or by law to adjudication by religious laws.

“Women’s rights in Afghanistan are still fragile,” said Norma Gattsek, deputy policy director at the Feminist Majority. “They remain vulnerable to the same extremist Taliban-like interpretations of religion which were used to take away all of their rights.”

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Christian Science Monitor 2/23/06; Feminist Daily News Wire 3/13/04, 1/5/04

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