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Asia-pacific

Karzai backs new law curtailing women's rights

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Latest update : 2009-04-02

A new Afghan family law supported by President Karzai reportedly makes it illegal for a woman to refuse sex with her husband, and severely restricts the rights of minority Shia women. US and Canadian leaders want it repealed.

AFP - Canadian lawmakers said Wednesday they are outraged by Afghan legislation that reportedly restricts the rights of minority Shia women, and want it repealed.
  
"This is antithetical to our mission in Afghanistan," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told public broadcaster CBC ahead of G20 talks in London, adding Kabul would face "considerable pressure" to nix it.
  
The Afghan family law reportedly makes it illegal for a woman to refuse sex with her husband, or to leave home without spousal permission and denies her custody of their children after a divorce.
  
It has cast a shadow over an international summit on Afghanistan in The Hague, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is said to have upbraided Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the law.
  
"We're deeply troubled by it," Harper said in a CBC interview. "And I don't think we're by any means alone."
  
"Making progress on human rights for women is a significant component of the international engagement in Afghanistan. It's a significant change we want to see from the bad old days of the Taliban," he said.
  
"I think President Karzai and those other actors who may be supporting this policy will find themselves under considerable pressure," Harper said.
  
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, meanwhile, said he would put "direct" pressure on his Afghan counterparts to abandon the legislation at this week's NATO summit.
  
"That's unacceptable. Period," he said. "We're fighting for values that include equality and women's rights. This sort of legislation won't fly."
  
Canada has some 2,800 troops in southern Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force routing insurgents, and has pledged more than one billion dollars in aid to the war-torn country.
  
Since the start of its mission in 2002, 116 soldiers, a senior diplomat and two aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan.
  
Earlier, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in the House of Commons: "We are concerned with the provisions in this law as we see them."
  
"And we are calling unequivocally upon the government in Afghanistan to make sure they live up to their international treaty obligations for human rights, especially human rights for women."
  
Opposition leaders meanwhile described the law as an "attack" on women and expressed "outrage on behalf of Afghan women."
  
Afghanistan's current constitution guarantees women's equal rights, but also allows a separate Shia family law based on religious traditions.

Date created : 2009-04-02

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