Fiona Hodgson is President of the Conservative Women's Organisation and set up the CWO Muslim Group; Glyn Strong is a journalist who has been nominated for an award for her coverage of Afghanistan. Here they call on us not to sit back and allow women's rights to be eroded again in Aghanistan.
The Personal Status of the Shiites Law, recently approved - then apparently referred for review - by President Hamid Karzai, is a law that oppresses women and flies in the face of human rights norms. Unsurprisingly it has sparked international outrage.
While it would be arrogant to make judgements about the customs and practices of other cultures, there are some basic human rights that are considered universal, and the Afghan Constitution accepts them – which makes the bid to pass this law so incomprehensible.
It is hard for ordinary members of the British public to ascertain, or understand the political nuances of what is happening in Afghan politics, but informed sources say the proposed law has now been referred to the Ministry of Justice where it will be reviewed by a committee of legal experts and scholars during the next two months. Representatives from civil society have apparently requested that a woman should be placed on this drafting team and the MOJ have said “they would aim to do so”.
This ‘family law’ is one that, if enacted, will give men considerable control over women’s lives. As it stands it forbids Shiite women from leaving their homes (“except for "legitimate purposes”), from working or receiving education without their husband’s permission. It legalises marital rape and has other disadvantageous provisions for women relating to marriage, divorce, child custody, remarriage (in the event of a partner’s death), inheritance (women can only inherit moveable effects), and bankruptcy.