ONTD Political

Hamid Karzai backs clerics' move to limit Afghan women's rights

10:58 pm - 03/08/2012
New Islamic code would allow husbands to beat wives and encourage segregation of the sexes.

Afghanistan's president has endorsed a "code of conduct" issued by an influential council of clerics which activists say represents a giant step backwards for women's rights in the country.

President Hamid Karzai's endorsement of the Ulema Council's document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes, is seen as part of his outreach to insurgents including the Taliban.

Both the US and Karzai hope that the Taliban can be brought into negotiations to end the country's decade-long war. But activists say they are worried that gains made by women since 2001 may be lost in the process.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan prior to the 2001 US invasion, girls were banned from going to school and women had to wear burqas that covered them from head to toe. Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative as an escort.

The "code of conduct" issued by the Ulema Council, as part of a longer statement on national political issues, is cast as a set of guidelines that religious women should obey voluntarily, but activists are concerned it will herald a reversal of the trend in Afghanistan since 2001 to pass laws aimed at expanding women's rights.

Among the rules: women should not travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with strange men in places such as schools, markets and offices. Beating one's wife is prohibited only if there is no "sharia-compliant reason," referring to the principles of Islamic law.

Asked about the code of conduct at a press conference in Kabul, Karzai said it was in line with Islamic law and was written in consultation with Afghan women's groups. He did not name the groups that were consulted.

"The clerics' council of Afghanistan did not put any limitations on women," Karzai said, adding: "It is the sharia law of all Muslims and all Afghans."

Karzai's public backing of the council's guidelines may be intended to make his own government more palatable to the Taliban, or he may simply be trying to keep on the good side of the Ulema Council, which could be a valuable intermediary in speaking to the insurgents.

But either way, women's activists say that Karzai's endorsement means existing or planned laws aimed at protecting women's rights may be sacrificed for peace negotiations.

"It sends a really frightening message that women can expect to get sold out in this process," said Heather Barr, an Afghanistan researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Shukria Barikzai, a Kabul parliamentarian who has been active in women's issues, said she was worried that Karzai and the clerics' council appeared to be ignoring their country's own laws.

"When it comes to civil rights in Afghanistan, Karzai should respect the constitution," Barikzai said. The Afghan constitution provides equal rights for men and women.

The exception for certain types of beatings appears to contradict Afghan law that prohibits spousal abuse. And the guidelines also promote rules on divorce that give women few rights, a turnaround from pledges by Karzai to reform Afghan family law to make divorces more equitable, Barr said.

Afghan women's rights activist Fatana Ishaq Gailani, founder of the Afghanistan Women's Council, said she felt that women's rights were being used as part of a political game.

"We want the correct Islam, not the Islam of politics," Gailani said. She supported negotiations with the Taliban, but said Afghanistan's women should not be sacrificed for that end.

Hadi Marifat of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organisation, which surveyed 5,000 Afghan women for a recent report on the state of women's rights in Afghanistan, argued that the statements showed Karzai was shifting towards the strictest interpretations of sharia law.

"In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, the guiding principle of President Karzai regarding women's rights has been attracting funding from the international community on one hand, balanced against the need to get the support of the Ulema Council and other traditionalists on the other," Marifat said.

"The concerning thing is that now this balance is shifting toward the conservative element, and that was obvious in his statement."


source: The Guardian

Just in time for International Women's Day... :/

You can read an English translation of the declaration here. Actual quote: "men are fundamental and women are secondary".
tilmon 9th-Mar-2012 06:54 am (UTC)
Men everywhere have historically demonstrated that the first thing they are willing to sell out for their own gain is women's rights, and they will do so while claiming to protect us.
asinbumble 9th-Mar-2012 06:59 am (UTC)
This is so disheartening. I have so much respect and admiration for women like Barikzai and Gailani.
kyra_neko_rei 9th-Mar-2012 07:01 am (UTC)
Ten years and more of hearing people say that the war in Afghanistan is totally awesome because we're helping women's rights over there, and this happens.

I'm mulling Ben Franklin's "those who exchange liberty for security deserve neither" quote in my head and wondering what ol' Ben would have to say about people who trade other people's liberty for their security.

Unfortunately I don't know how to swear my head off in 18th-century English, so I couldn't begin to guess.
firerosearien 9th-Mar-2012 07:12 am (UTC)
"You bloody knave, god's blood..."

Okay, so that's more 16th century English....
thelilyqueen 9th-Mar-2012 02:04 pm (UTC)
I don't know how to do that either, but I bet it'd be choice. Esp. since IIRC Ben was, considering the times, pretty darn good on women's issues.
kyra_neko_rei 10th-Mar-2012 06:07 am (UTC)
I know he didn't mind writing under a female pseudonym, which I bet a lot of men today would consider emasculating unless it was satire of "the bitch perspective" instead of actual things they wanted to say.
thelilyqueen 10th-Mar-2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
One bit of writing of his I remember was supposedly written by a woman who'd never married and had five children, all by different fathers. The letter pointed out the unfairness of the fact that she'd been prosecuted, while the men got away scot-free. In fact, she said, she ought to be given a medal for fulfilling the command to go forth and multiply and successfully raising her children. A definite stab at the double standard.

In another instance, he very favorably compared a widow to her deceased husband (he'd had business dealings with both, as she took over on her husband's death). She was much more capable at business, paid her bills much more promptly, etc.

It'd be a stretch to call him a feminist in the modern sense, but I do think I can say he had a proto-feminist ability to appreciate smart, capable, opinionated women and not condemn them as 'unfeminine' or 'a disgrace to the sex'.
kyra_neko_rei 11th-Mar-2012 04:09 am (UTC)

Still likely quite invested in the gender roles of the time, but recognizing that being a competent and capable person in various aspects of life are not as limited to men as others believed at the time.
carmy_w 9th-Mar-2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
romp 9th-Mar-2012 07:20 am (UTC)
I just posted elsewhere about how the Taliban was a concern for people who cared about women for 10 years before 9/11. Then the loss of rights for women was trotted out as a reason to go "over there" but I doubt anyone bought that.
little_rachael 9th-Mar-2012 08:08 am (UTC)
I can't say I'm surprised, but I'm disheartened nonetheless. Am I thinking of something else, or were things looking up over there a few months ago?
myrana 9th-Mar-2012 11:17 am (UTC)
Exactly. From here: "According to aid group Oxfam, 87 per cent of Afghan women say they have suffered from physical, sexual or psychological abuse or been forced into an arranged marriage." That's 87% right now, what's it going to be like in a couple of years? (Not to mention it's probably higher than that already anyway.)
tabaqui 9th-Mar-2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
Nothing but fucking RAGE.
jettakd 9th-Mar-2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
"men are fundamental and women are secondary".

Fuck y'all too.
nikoel 9th-Mar-2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
I'm reading Half The Sky right now and there is just so much evidence that countries do better all around when women are valued. It's so disheartening when you see so much resistance to it.
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