Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afghan President Legalizes Rape

Critics claim that Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, helped rush a bill through parliament which legalizes rape in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.

In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

The bill lay dormant for more than a year, but in February it was rushed through parliament as President Karzai sought allies in a constitutional row over the upcoming election.

The most controversial parts of the law deal explicitly with sexual relations. Article 132 requires women to obey their husband's sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least "once every four nights" when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Unifem, warned: "Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband".

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to also contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands' permission and that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Update: About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal the law. Counter protests hurled stones and yelled insults and threats while female Afghan police officers joined hands to form a human chain around the women to try to protect them.

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