Afghan women protest against law that ‘legalises rape’
Hundreds of angry Afghan women gathered outside the Kabul mosque run by a hardline Shia cleric to protest against a law that human rights organisations claim legalises marital rape.
About 200 women chanted slogans and carried banners outside the imposing Khatam Al Nabi mosque and seminary run by Mohammad Asif Mohseni, the cleric who has strongly promoted a law that also bans women from leaving their homes without the permission of their husbands.
Meanwhile, a roughly equal number of largely male counter-protesters shouted “Allahu Akbar” and furiously protested against what they see as largely foreign pressure to impose western cultural norms on Afghanistan.
According to Associated Press, some of the women were pelted with stones by opponents.
News that the law, which only affects Afghanistan’s Shia minority, had been quietly passed by President Hamid Karzai last month, prompted international fury when the Guardian revealed details of legislation that the US president, Barack Obama, described as “abhorrent”.
But today’s demonstration shows at least some Afghan women are as angered by the law as leading international critics, which also included Gordon Brown, Hillary Clinton and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary general.
A statement by the group of civil rights groups who organised the rally said it had been called to protest against a law that “insults dignity of women as fellow human beings and increases ethnocentrism and inequality”.
It said the law contradicted equal rights provisions in the constitution and demanded the scrapping of articles that give husbands the right to have sex with their wives whenever they chose, except during times when they are ill or menstruating.
Ayatollah Mohseni is a leading figure among Afghanistan’s Shias, who represent about 15% of the population and are seen as an important voting block in this year’s presidential elections.
The cleric recently defended the law, saying Karzai was wrong to bow to international pressure by ordering the justice ministry to review it.
He described the political pressure from western leaders as “cultural invasion, thinking one’s culture is better than others”.
Human Rights Watch strongly supported today’s protest and said Karzai should repeal the law.
“President Karzai should not sacrifice women for short-term political deal-making,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“He is playing with fire. How will he be able to refuse demands for similar discriminatory laws from other communities?”
Afghan women protest against ‘rape’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7999875.stm
Stones Thrown at Afghan Women Protesters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dBX25jJWto
Afghanistan Women Protest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o2RyUzRDvY