Afghan Minister Says Constitution Lacks Essential Women’s Rights Language

Afghanistan’s State Minister of Women’s Affairs, Mahbuba Hoquqmal, said that the draft constitution released last week does not do enough to guarantee women’s rights. Hoquqmal has suggested changes to the constitution that would guarantee and protect women’s rights such as using the term “men and women” instead of the word “citizen” because some Afghan men do not see their wives as citizens of Afghanistan. Hoquqmal wants to add a sentence to the preamble that says that Afghan adopted a constitution with the aim of “securing equal rights for women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women,” reports the Associated Press. In addition, Hoquqmal is also urging that two women, not one, should represent each province in the lower house and that women should be guaranteed representation in provincial assemblies and local councils.

While the draft constitution does contain provisions guaranteeing human rights, equal rights, and non-discrimination for all Afghan citizens, it lacks language that women’s rights and human rights advocates had urged explicitly defining “citizens” as both women and men and leaves women’s rights in many areas vulnerable to interpretation of Islam. In addition, the current version of the constitution does not contain language to protect women from forced marriage, early marriage, or protect women’s property rights.

The draft does obligate Afghanistan to abide by international treaties and covenants including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Presumably, this guarantee would extend to the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Afghanistan ratified in March of 2003.

The constitution will be debated and adopted at the upcoming loya jirga (grand council) next month.

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Associated Press 11/10/03; Feminist Daily News Wire 11/5/03

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