[JURIST] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] told reporters Monday that the controversial Shi'ite personal status law [Reuters backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which limits women's rights, is being amended by the country's Justice Ministry. Monday's statement [Reuters report] at a press conference with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown came one day after Karzai told female members of parliament and human rights advocates that he would amend the law in an effort to align its more controversial provisions with international standards of human rights. During the meeting, Karzai reportedly said that when he signed the law [JURIST report] last month, he did so without realizing the effects [Reuters report] it would have on the lives of the country's Shi'ite women because the law was 239 pages in length and was written in an esoteric theological language. The law, which has not yet been published, has received a great deal of local and international criticism for allegedly condoning marital rape, setting the minimum marital age for females at nine years old, denying rights of spousal inheritance to widows, and otherwise limiting the freedom of Shi'ite women in Afghanistan.
Key Shiite cleric Mohammad Asif Mohsseni defended the law [JURIST report] earlier this month, chastising Western critics for interfering with Afghan democracy. Less than a week later, approximately 300 Afghan women protested [JURIST report] the law in front of the mosque run by Mohsenni in response to his endorsement. Fierce international criticism of the law's more controversial provisions prompted Karzai's decision to suspend the law and to submit it to the Ministry of Justice [JURIST reports] for review earlier this month. His decision to sign the law was one of several actions that Karzai has been criticized for since his appointment as Afghanistan's interim president in 2002. In early March, the UN reported that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is worsening [JURIST report], one week after a similar US report rebuked Afghanistan for, among other problems, continued use of child labor [JURIST report]. In November, the UN urged Afghanistan to discontinue use of the death penalty [JURIST report], which Karzai had reinstated following a four-year moratorium [JURIST report]. In April 2008, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Karzai [Guardian report] during a military parade, the third attempt on his life since 2001.