In March, Afghani President Hamid Karzai signed a law that restricted the rights of Shiite women in various ways. The proposed law has received international condemnation from women’s rights organizations and numerous world leaders. President Karzai promised that the law, which was not yet in effect, would be amended to remove any humanitarian issues after the recess of the Afghani Parliament during the summer. Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch reports that the law was published in the official Gazette on July 27, 2009, which effectively brings the law into force.
The law in question affects Shiites, which comprise approximately twenty percent of Afghanistan’s population. Despite some alterations from the original draft, the version that went into effect on July 27, 2009, still contains numerous restrictive clauses, including:
-a husband may deny food and shelter to a wife if she refuses to have sex with him;
-fathers and grandfathers are given sole custody of children;
-women must receive permission from their husbands to work; and
-rapists may pay money to victims who are injured during the crime to avoid prosecution.
According to Human Rights Watch, the law directly contradicts the Afghanistan Constitution, which accords equal rights to men and women. Some activists argue that President Karzai went against his public position against the law and allowed it to be published in the Gazette to shore up support from conservative Shiite groups before the August 20 elections.
Compiled from: "Afghanistan: Law Curbing Women's Rights Takes Effect," Human Rights Watch (August 13, 2009); Heidi Vogt, "Women activists condemn Afghan marriage law," Associated Press (August 17, 2009).