Afghans chase off women law protesters

BBC News / Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Dozens of Afghan women who tried to protest against a new law they say legalises rape within marriage have been attacked in the capital, Kabul.
Police intervened after supporters of the law threw stones at the women and tried to seize their banners.
The law was signed by President Hamid Karzai but is currently being reviewed after criticism from abroad.
Its most controversial article says a woman must make herself available for sex with her husband when he desires.
The law’s defenders say it actually protects the rights of women.

‘Revisit and overturn’
Thursday’s demonstration took place outside a religious centre run by a cleric who helped draft the law which is aimed at Afghanistan’s Shia minority.
“We actually see it as a law that is limiting women’s rights… We all stand against this law, we want a reform of the law, we want a revisit of it and overturn of it,” one of the protesters, Sima Ghani, told the BBC.
Another protester said the new law was reminiscent of the worst excesses against women during the Taleban’s rule of Afghanistan which ended in 2001.
President Karzai ordered an urgent review of the law – which he says has been misinterpreted by Western journalists – earlier this month.
It has been criticised by US President Barack Obama, the UN and Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who said it went against the values of his troops.
Aides to President Karzai insist that the law in fact provides more protection for women.
Some women on Wednesday staged counter-demonstrations in support of the law, insisting that the legislation stops women from being harmed.
“Muslim women have rights which are stated for them in the Koran, not rights that other countries set for them. We want the rights which have been set according to Islam,” one of them told the BBC.
Among the law’s provisions are that

• wives are obliged to have sexual relations with their husbands at least once every four days
• women cannot leave home without their husband’s permission

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorizes rape within marriage.
The law covers members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, who make up 10% of the population. A separate family law for the Sunni majority is also being drawn up.

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