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Asia-pacific

Kabul reviews controversial law on women's rights

Latest update : 2009-04-07

After a flood of criticism by Western governments, Afghanistan plans to review a law recently approved by President Hamid Karzai accused of violating the rights of Shiite minority women. The law notably includes legalising marital rape.

AFP- The Afghan government admitted Tuesday to "problems" in President Hamid Karzai's approving a controversial law for the Shiite minority that critics say violates the rights of women.
   
Karzai ordered a review of the Shiite Personal Status Law, which he signed in March, after an international outcry over claims it enforced Taliban-era restrictions on women.
   
"We must admit that there have been problems," the president's spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, told reporters when asked if the legislation was properly assessed before it was signed.
   
He told AFP separately that he was referring to technical issues, with the legal points still under review.
   
"We're reviewing the law in order to fix the technical problems as well as the legal aspects of it," he said.
   
Some parliamentarians said the legislation had been rushed through parliament, with MPs from the Sunni majority preferring not to interfere in an issue involving Shiites.
   
"We must not forget that our experience in making laws, our experience in democracy is young," Hamidzada said at the press conference. "We're moving towards maturity," he said.
   
The spokesman would not be drawn on the contents of the legislation being studied by the justice ministry.
   
"At this stage we are not going to pre-judge the outcome, the president and the government of Afghanistan are committed to a full review," he said.
   
"The president is committed also to upholding the constitution that provides equal rights for men and women," he added.
   
Hamidzada said there had been several drafts of the legislation and it was not clear if the final version was the one critics referred to.
   
There has been a flood of criticism about the law, largely from Kabul's Western allies, including claims that it legalises marital rape and bars women from leaving home without their husbands' permission, except in emergencies.
   
But some MPs argue that the concerns are based on the draft bill and not the final, amended version passed by parliament.
   
The law was brought to parliament by Afghanistan's Shiites, who make up about 15 percent of the population.

Date created : 2009-04-07

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