Afghanistan’s Justice Ministry yesterday released a revision of the controversial Shia law that legalized rape within marriage, among other provisions. The Associated Press reports that the new version omits original provisions that allowed men to demand sex from their wives and that required women to ask their husbands’ permission to leave their home.
The law sparked international outrage when it was first signed by President Hamid Karzai in March, prompting him to suspend its enforcement while the Justice Ministry conducted a three-month review of the legislation. The law applies only to Afghanistan’s 10-20 percent Shia minority, but many condemned its similarities to the Taliban’s restrictions on women. The revised law will be debated in parliament before it is implemented.
The response of activists to the revised law has been mixed. Brad Adams, Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch, stated “This review process has been shrouded in secrecy. The result is that, despite some modest improvements, many key amendments proposed by civil society groups and parliamentarians have been ignored, and some of the most repressive provisions remain,” according to the UK Telegraph. For example, the law still includes a provision that states a man does not have to provide financial support for his wife unless he has “access to her.”
Women’s rights advocate Shukria Barakzai believes the law will have little affect on the reality of women’s lives. “We need a change in customs, and this is just on paper. What is being practiced everyday, in Kabul even, is worse than the laws. Still there are forced marriages and child marriages and the lack of access to property, and the lack of access to divorce. Still a girl, because she’s a girl, can’t go to school, in very rich families even,” she told the Associated Press.