Women’s Rights Law Blocked by Mullahs in Afghanistan
The Afghan Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been blocked by religious lawmakers in Afghanistan, claiming it violated Islamic principles.
The law has been in effect since 2009 as a Presidential decree and it was being brought before the parliament, because the lawmaker and women’s rights activist Fawzia Kofi wanted a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal. Unfortunately, it was entirely withdrawn by the conservative opposition.
The law criminalizes domestic violence against women, child marriage and forced marriages. It also bans the traditional practice of selling and buying women to settle disputes. It specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for adultery.
Mullahs and other conservative MPs accused President Karzai of acting against Sharia law by signing the decree in the first place, although Karzai has been changing his position on women’s rights frequently, even endorsing a “code of conduct” issued by an influential council of clerics, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances, in 2012.
Mullahs also demanded a change to the law so that men cannot be prosecuted for rape within marriage.
Fawzia Kofi who is the first parliamentary female speaker of Afghanistan, says she is disappointed on the decision but not deterred. She still plans to run for president in next year’s elections.
Since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime, women’s freedoms have improved. While in power, the Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam were the regime banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. All women were forced to wear a burqa and violators were publicly flogged or executed.