Karzai agrees to review, change ‘abhorrent’ marital rape law

Karzai agrees to review, change ‘abhorrent’ marital rape lawKabul, Apr. 28 : Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has bowed to international pressure by promising to amend a new law condoning marital rape and child marriage that provoked violent clashes in the Afghan capital.

The Shia Family Law, signed by Karzai last month, appeared to reintroduce the draconian policies of the Taleban era, such as a ban on married women leaving their homes without their husbands' permission. The law applies to the 15 per cent of Afghans who are Shia Muslims.

The controversial laws include stipulates that the wife "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires". Another passage sanctions marital rape. "As long as the husband is not travelling he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night . . . Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

Article 133 reintroduces the Taleban restrictions on women's movements outside their homes, stating: "A wife cannot leave the house without the permission of the husband" unless in a medical or other emergency.

Article 27 endorses child marriage, with girls legally able to marry once they begin to menstruate. The law also withholds from the woman the right to inherit her husband's wealth.

At a press conference in Kabul on Monday, Karzai said: "The law is under review and amendments will take place. I assure you that the laws of Afghanistan will be in complete harmony with the constitution of Afghanistan, and the human rights that we have adhered to in international treaties."

His statement appeared to rebut widespread speculation that by signing the law he was pandering to conservatives before this summer's delayed presidential election. Mr Karzai confirmed that he would stand in the elections, where he will be the front-runner.

Afghanistan's constitution guarantees equality of the sexes and the country is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

However, hardline theologians argue that all other provisions are overridden by Article Three of the Constitution, which guarantees that nothing contrary to the "beliefs and provisions of Islam" is permissible in Afghan law.

Karzai's climb down came a day after he said that he had been unaware of its content when he signed it. He made the claim when he met a group of women activists who organised a protest against the new law in Kabul last week. The protesters were attacked by a mob of male supporters of the law.

The controversial provisions were buried in the 239-page document, much of it written in dense theological jargon.

Karzai said that his aides had not briefed him properly about the details. (ANI)