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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Afghanistan divided over potential 'Talebanisation'

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tom Coghlan

A controversial law that reintroduces many Taleban-era restrictions on women has provoked a rare public protest from liberals in Afghanistan's increasingly divided Establishment.

Five Cabinet ministers were among nearly 200 Afghan officials and intellectuals who issued a petition opposing the law yesterday, claiming that it “violates the essence of the Afghan Constitution and principle of selfautonomy of citizens, [and] permits women to be dealt with not as human beings . . . but rather as an object”.

The petition calls on Afghans to oppose the “Talebanisation” of their society. A total of 22 MPs signed — although this is a small minority of the 249 MPs who might have added their names to the document.

The law appears to condone marital rape and child marriage. It forbids women to leave home without their husband's permission and removes the right to inherit their husband's wealth.

The international community reacted with horror to the law, with President Obama calling it “abhorrent”.

The Afghan Government of President Karzai, bowing to international pressure, announced on Monday that the law was to be reviewed and had not yet come into force.

Afghan women suffer from the lowest literacy rate in the world, at 13 percent. According to the UK-based NGO Womankind, anywhere between sixty and eighty percent of marriages are forced, 57 percent of brides are under the age of 16, and 87 percent complain of domestic violence. UNIFEM says that 65 percent of widows in Kabul see suicide as their only option to "get rid of their miseries and desolation." Thousands of women turn to self-immolation every year. There are no reliable stats on rape, as most women will never report it. This is because women can be convicted of zina, extramarital sex, if knowledge of the rape becomes public. In most of the country, even a woman just found outside of her home without the permission of her male guardian will be thrown in jail and tried as an adulterer.


By Matthew Fisher

As Afghanistan's Parliament debated ways Monday to protect female politicians from assassination, young women attending Kabul University expressed surprise and bewilderment at the debate raging in Canada and Europe over a proposed law that seems to allow men from the Shiite Hazara minority to sexually enslave their wives and imprison them in their homes.

The nearly unanimous view on the campus — arguably the most progressive institution in Afghanistan — was that the West should not involve itself in the country's cultural and religious affairs.

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