Afghanistan Passes 'Barbaric' Law Diminishing Women's RIghts

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The Guardian/UK

Afghanistan Passes 'Barbaric' Law Diminishing Women's RIghts

Afghanistan passes 'barbaric' law diminishing women's rights Rehashed legislation allows husbands to deny wives food if they fail to obey sexual demands

by
Jon Koone

Women wearing the burka in Baharak town, Afghanistan. Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Afghanistan
has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food
and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands,
despite international outrage over an earlier version of the
legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

The
new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children
exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to
get permission from their husbands to work.

"It also effectively
allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl
who was injured when he raped her," the US charity Human Rights Watch
said.

In early April, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown joined an
international chorus of condemnation when the Guardian revealed that
the earlier version of the law legalised rape within marriage, according to the UN.

Although
Karzai appeared to back down, activists say the revised version of the
law still contains repressive measures and contradicts the Afghan
constitution and international treaties signed by the country.

Islamic
law experts and human rights activists say that although the language
of the original law has been changed, many of the provisions that
alarmed women's rights groups remain, including this one: "Tamkeen is
the readiness of the wife to submit to her husband's reasonable sexual
enjoyment, and her prohibition from going out of the house, except in
extreme circumstances, without her husband's permission. If any of the
above provisions are not followed by the wife she is considered
disobedient."

The law has been backed by the hardline Shia cleric
Ayatollah Mohseni, who is thought to have influence over the voting
intentions of some of the country's Shias, which make up around 20% of
the population. Karzai has assiduously courted such minority leaders in
the run up to next Thursday's election, which is likely to be a close
run thing, according to a poll released yesterday.

Human Rights
Watch, which has obtained a copy of the final law, called on all
candidates to pledge to repeal the law, which it says contradicts
Afghanistan's own constitution.

The group said that Karzai had
"made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in the support of
fundamentalists in the August 20 election".

Brad Adams, the
organisation's Asia director, said: "The rights of Afghan women are
being ripped up by powerful men who are using women as pawns in
manoeuvres to gain power.

"These kinds of barbaric laws were
supposed to have been relegated to the past with the overthrow of the
Taliban in 2001, yet Karzai has revived them and given them his
official stamp of approval."

The latest opinion poll by US
democracy group the International Republican Institute showed that
although Karzai was up 13 points to 44% since the last survey in May,
his closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, had soared from 7% to 26%.

If
those numbers prove accurate, it would mean the contest would have to
go to a second round run-off vote in early October. In that scenario,
50% of voters said they would vote for Karzai and 29% for Abdullah.

The survey was conducted in mid to late July, so it is not known whether Abdullah has made further gains on Karzai.

He
could further increase his chance of victory by joining forces with
Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister who is also running on a
platform fiercely critical of Karzai.

Fifty-eight per cent of the
2,400 people polled by IRI said they would like to see an alliance
between Abdullah and Ghani, who is polling in fourth place.

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