Afghanistan will Review New Shia Law that Restricts Women’s Rights

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced this weekend that the Afghan government, specifically the minister of justice, will review a new Shia family law he signed sometime last month that would severely restrict women’s rights in Afghanistan. Karzai, according to news sources, signed the bill to court the Hazara vote in the upcoming presidential election.

In a news conference Saturday Karzai responded to international outrage in response to the law: “We understand the concerns of our allies in the international community…If there is anything that is of concern to us then we will definitely take action in consultation with our [religious clerics] and send it back to the parliament,” reported CNN.

The law has not yet been published, but according to The Guardian 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.

Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who worked against the legislation, told The Independent UK that the law “is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century…It is totally against women’s rights. This law makes women more vulnerable.”

According to CNN, President Obama has said “I think this law is abhorrent…We think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.”

Action Alert: send a letter to President Karzai


Feminist Daily Newswire 4/1/09; The Guardian 3/31/09; The Independent UK 3/31/09; CNN 4/8/09

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