Karzai Vows Amendments to Afghan Shia Law

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced in a press conference yesterday that a controversial Shia Family law whose implementation would severely restrict women’s rights by legalizing rape within marriage, will be amended and that the human rights of women and girls will be respected by the law. Karzai told reporters “the law is under review and amendments will take place. I assure you that the laws of Afghanistan will be in complete harmony with the constitution of Afghanistan, and the human rights that we have adhered to in international treaties,” according to The Times. Karzai reportedly signed the law without being aware of all of its provisions and sent the likely unconstitutional law to be reviewed by the Afghan Ministry of Justice and the Afghan Supreme Court earlier this month.

The proposed law has incited both international and local outrage. Last week, US Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a concurrent resolution in Congress that called on Afghanistan’s leaders, specifically the Government of Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai, “to declare the provision on marital rape and restrictions on women’s freedom of movement unconstitutional and an erosion of Afghanistan’s growth and development.”

According to The Guardian the law 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.


Barbara Boxer Press Release 4/23/09; The Times 4/28/09; The Guardian 3/31/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/17/09

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