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Afghanistan to suspend controversial limits on women's rights pending review

[JURIST] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] said Monday that a law which severely limits the rights of married Shi’ite women in Afghanistan would not be enforced until the country's Ministry of Justice [official website] has complete reviewing the law. A spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] confirmed [AFP report] that the law had been placed on hold and submitted for review. Karzai ordered the review [JURIST report] of the Shi'ite Personal Status Law Saturday in the wake of international criticism for provisions, which opponents say require a woman to seek her husband's permission before leaving the house and effectively condone rape [NYT report] within a marriage. The law was enacted last month [JURIST report] and Karzai has said that it has been misunderstood by Western media, but that the law would be returned to the Afghan parliament if changes need to be made. The Afghanistan constitution [text, PDF] requires equal rights for both both men and women, but allows for the country's Shia [BBC backgrounder] population to observe some of its own religious laws.

Signing 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.

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