So here's the deal: Afghanistan is going to have an election in August. The current President, Hamid Karzai, is seeking re-election but is unpopular as his regime has proven to be ineffectual and corrupt. He is, however, the man favored by Western leaders to lead the embattled nation. In an effort to win votes, he's signed into law a bill which erodes the few rights that Afghan women have and which, according to the UN, "legalises rape within marriages and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands' permission." Now, to anyone with an ounce of decency this sounds archaic and, well, gross, but according to an Afghan MP the law is actually is means of "protecting" women and isn't really that bad:
"The law g[ives] a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she [is] unwell or [has] another reasonable 'excuse'... [and] a woman would not be obligated to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission."An emergency like... being raped? Oh, no, an emergency other than that.
So far Western leaders' response to this (at least publicly) has been silence. Why? "Because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture." What about respecting Afghan women? This isn't a cultural issue. It's an issue of basic human rights. If I recall correctly, human rights was one of the major justifications for going into Afghanistan in the first place. It shouldn't have to be said, but women are humans, too. You can't ignore their right to be treated as such and still claim that you're fulfilling your mandate to spread democracy to the Middle East. Furthermore, it's an insult to the men and women over there fighting - and those who have died - to support a government so eager to sacrifice those rights and freedoms that people fought so hard for.
Anyway, that's my two cents and I sincerely hope that this story gets enough attention that leaders around the world feel compelled to actually, you know, do something before the bill is ratified and the law put on the books. For more information, click here, here, or here.
All quotations come from the Guardian article by Jon Boone