Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, in a bid to gain support for his faltering Presidential re-election campaign, has signed a law that is reminiscent of the days of Taliban rule. The new law prohibits women from leaving their homes, seeking work, education or visiting the doctor without their husbands’ permission, and forbids them from refusing their husband sex. According to the UN, the law essentially legalizes rape. It also grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only and tacitly approves child marriage.
Female parliamentarians report that the law was passed with unprecedented speed and little debate. Through negotiation they were able to raise the minimum age for marriage from nine years old to sixteen and to outlaw temporary marriage. They wanted other changes as well, but but little or no discussion was allowed.
So far, the international community has not questioned the new law out of fear of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture. However, women leaders in Afghanistan are hoping that foreign embassies and governments that support Karzai will intervene when the new law is published.