[DEBATE] : Pressure on Hamid Karzai to scrap Afghan women's law
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Wed Apr 1 09:57:49 BST 2009
[Yes real pressure on the Mayor of Kabul... just like bringing democracy
Pressure on Hamid Karzai to scrap Afghan women's law
* Julian Borger in The Hague
* The Guardian, Wednesday 1 April 2009
* Article history
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, came under intense western
pressure yesterday to scrap a new law that the UN said legalised rape
within marriage and severely limited the rights of women.
At a conference on Afghanistan in The Hague, Scandinavian foreign
ministers publicly challenged the Afghan leader to respond to a report
on the new law in yesterday's Guardian, and the US secretary of state,
Hillary Clinton, was reported to have confronted Karzai on the issue in
a private meeting.
At a press conference after the meeting, Clinton made clear US
displeasure at the apparent backsliding on women's rights. "This is an
area of absolute concern for the United States. My message is very
clear. Women's rights are a central part of the foreign policy of the
Obama administration," she said.
The Guardian reported that Karzai had signed the controversial law last
month. The text has not yet been published but the UN, human rights
activists and some Afghan MPs said it included clauses stipulating that
women cannot refuse to have sex with their husbands, and can only seek
work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands' permission.
International aid officials say the law violates both UN conventions and
the Afghan constitution. It is widely seen as a political ploy by Karzai
to win support from conservative Muslims in presidential elections
scheduled for August.
Mark Malloch Brown, Britain's foreign office minister for Africa, Asia
and the UN, expressed "dismay" over the law's impact on women's rights.
"We are caught in the Catch-22 that the Afghans obviously have the right
to write their own laws," he said. "But there is dismay. The rights of
women was one of the reasons the UK and many in the west threw ourselves
into the struggle in Afghanistan. It matters greatly to us and our
Malloch Brown did not meet Karzai yesterday, but said "one can
confidently assume" that it came up in the private bilateral sessions
the Afghan leader held with western officials in the course of the day.
Diplomatic sources said later that women's rights had been one of the
subjects of the Clinton-Karzai meeting.
At the Hague conference, instigated at Washington's request to rally
international support for Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan, Finland's
foreign minister, Alexander Stubb, called on the Karzai government to
respond to the Guardian report, a call echoed by Iceland, while Norway
also expressed concern over the trend in women's rights.
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