The London Guardian reports:
Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan's presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands' permission.
Oddly, it is not the usual suspects who wanted this legislation:
A western diplomat said the law represented a "big tick in the box" for the powerful council of Shia clerics. Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.
Ok Hazara, justify this.
Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras.
But he said the law actually protected women's rights."Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters."
Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable "excuse". And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.
And women legislators? How did they rationalize the law they just passed?
"Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament's lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.
"It's not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it's a huge improvement," said Shukria Barakzai, an MP. "Before this was passed family issues were decided by customary law, so this is a big improvement."
And the West spending all that blood and treasure to right things in Afghanistan, what was their reaction to this, um, step backward?
The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning such a politically sensitive issue.
"It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult," a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.
Here's my suggestion on how this law can be applied to protect women. Let he who fails to comply with God's law to treat his wife in a decent, moral and merciful way be declared an apostate and punished according to Islamic law. (That is, put him to death.)
Allow husbands to lord over wives if you must but only in compliance with Islam. Then it can be reasonably argued that this law does in fact protect women. Otherwise, not.