Friday, April 17, 2009

Afghan law that allowed rape in a marriage to be reviewed

Over a period of history, the concept of rights of a woman in marriage have been evolving; from earlier times where many cultures considered the woman to be a property of the husband in the marriage, most societies now legally consider the rights of both men and women in a marriage to be the same (of course, in realistic terms, this may not be always true, with many cultures believing men to be the superior, and having more rights). However, it is also true that many Islamic countries have a conflict between the rights of men and women in a marriage - there are a number of clerics who believe that woman do not have the same rights (with the Taliban-run Afghanistan being a society where the rights of woman were definitely much lower than that of men).
Inter-linked in all this is the concept of sexual relations in marriage, and what are the duties / obligations of each partner in a marriage. Policies have slowly evolved that the concept of force has been recognized as not valid; if a partner forces the other partner to submit to a sexual relationship by force, then it is now recognized as rape. However, recent events in Afghanistan changed this entire understanding.
Recently, a law was passed in Afghanistan for the minority Shia population that legalized rape within the marriage, allowing the husband to force the demand for sexual relationship within the marriage. The passage of this law outraged people all over, with women's rights groups in Afghanistan protesting the passage of the law; more significantly, western backers of the Karzai Government were outraged and gave public statements demanding withdrawal of the law. All this pressure has finally resulted in a statement by the Afghan President that the law will be revised and brought into conformance with the Afghan constitution and with the Sharia (link to article):

# Afghan law appears to let a man to have sex with his wife even when she says "no"
# Karzai tells CNN he, others unaware of the provision due to the amount of legislation
Karzai told CNN's Fareed Zakaria that he and others were unaware of the provision in the legislation, which he said "has so many articles." Karzai signed the measure into law last month. "Now I have instructed, in consultation with clergy of the country, that the law be revised and any article that is not in keeping with the Afghan constitution and Islamic Sharia must be removed from this law," Karzai said.
The bill languished in the country's parliament for a year-and-a-half before it was recently pushed through in what one legislator called a "chaotic" vote. Women from various parts of Afghanistan marched in the capital Wednesday to protest the law, which has also been criticized by human-rights groups and Western leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

For now, the measure has been beaten back, but measures to lift women's rights will take time, and many reverses before they can take root, especially in a backward society such as in Afghanistan.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:02 PM