Afghans block law protecting women’s rights

Hardliners say proposed legislation to outlaw domestic violence is against Islamic principles

Kabul

Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked a law that aims to protect women’s freedoms, with some arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles or encourage women to have sex outside of marriage.

The failure highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the overthrow of the Taliban. Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of fierce opposition from religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic. “Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Mr Shaheedzada said.

The law on elimination of violence against women has actually been in effect since 2009 by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because the lawmaker Fawzia Koofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hardline religious parties.

Among the law’s provisions are measures to criminalise child marriage and ban baad, the traditional practice of selling and buying women to settle disputes. It also criminalises domestic violence and specifies that rape victims should not face charges for fornication.

“We want to change this decree as a law and get the vote of parliament for this law,” said Ms Koofi, who is herself running for president in next year’s elections. “Unfortunately, there were some conservative elements who are opposing this law. What I am disappointed at is there were also women who were opposing this law.”

Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly as a result of constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women. The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative parliamentarian from Daykundi province. Mr Neli suggested that removing the custom – common in Afghanistan – of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to chaos, with women engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.

Mr Shaheedzada also claimed that the law might encourage promiscuity among girls and women, saying it reflected Western values not applicable in Afghanistan. “Even now in Afghanistan, women are running from their husbands. Girls are running from home,” he said. “Such laws give them these ideas.”

Freedoms for women are one of the most visible – and symbolic – changes in Afghanistan since the 2001 campaign that toppled the Taliban. Aside from their support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban are probably most notorious for their harsh treatment of women under their severe interpretation of Islamic law.

For five years, the regime banned women from working and going to school, or even leaving home without a male relative. In public, all women were forced wear a head-to-toe burqa. Violators were publicly flogged or executed. Freeing women from such draconian laws lent a moral air to the Afghan war. Since then, women’s freedoms have improved, but there are fears these freedoms could shrink once Nato-led forces leave the country by the end of next year.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most