On Saturday, the Speaker of the Lower House of Afghan Parliament delayed a vote on the Elimination of Violence against Women law after two hours of vociferous debate between conservative religious and more liberal members of Parliament. The Speaker did not specify when the measure would be placed on the floor for a vote again.
A number of conservative members of Parliament (MPs) raised their voices against the measure, deeming it un-Islamic. Although the EVAW law was issued by the executive decree of President Hamid Karzai in 2009, women’s rights activist Fawzia Kofi, who also heads the women’s committee of the Lower House, decided to introduce the EVAW in Parliament. Kofi was concerned that without the EVAW being approved by Parliament, the decree might be reversed by a newly elected President in 2014. Karzai is term limited and cannot run again in 2014. Some Afghan women’s rights leaders opposed introducing the EFAW in Parliament for fear of having it defeated or repealed by conservative members.
According to the TOLO News “The parliamentarians who opposed the law call 6 of its articles to be against Islamic values.” These articles include criminalizing child marriage and forced marriage, banning the traditional “BAAD” practice of exchanging girls and girls and women to settle disputes between families, making domestic violence punishable up to three years in prison, protecting rape victims from prosecution for adultery or fornication, limiting the number of wives a man can have to two, and established shelters for battered women.
One of the conservative MPS suggested that the article to eliminate prosecution of raped women for adultery would lead to more extramarital sex, with women claiming they had been raped just to escape punishment. Others claimed that a husband has the right to discipline his wife.
“There’s a real risk this has opened a Pandora’s box, that this may have galvanized opposition to this decree by people who in principle oppose greater rights for women,” stated Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.