Afghanistan women protest controversial law restricting women's rights

[JURIST] A group of approximately 300 Afghan women protesting a law that critics say severely curtails womens' rights were confronted by a crowd of approximately 1,000 counter-protesters Wednesday, some of whom threw stones and gravel at the women. The protest took place outside a mosque run by Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Asif Mohseni who spoke out [JURIST report] in support of the Shi'ite Personal Status Law [JURIST news archive] over the weekend. Police stood between the two groups [AP report] to prevent further violence against the women. Protesters say that the new law, which reportedly allows husbands to demand sex from their wives at any time except in a few narrowly defined circumstances and prevents women from leaving their home unaccompanied without their husband's permission, is reminiscent of laws under the Taliban [JURIST news archive] and violates Afghanistan's constitution [text, PDF]. The larger group of counter-protesters shouted down the protesters, claiming that the protesters and international critics of the law are attempting to interfere with Afghan democracy. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] supported the protest [press release] and urged Afghanistan's government to heed the protesters' call to the reverse the law.

The Taliban claimed responsibility [JURIST report] Sunday for killing Afghan politician and women's rights advocate Sitara Achakzai outside her home. Earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] announced the law would not be enforced [JURIST report] until the Ministry of Justice [official website] had reviewed the bill as Karzai ordered [JURIST report] two days before. Karzai faced international criticism after signing the still unpublished bill [JURIST report] last month. The law affects only Shi'ite Muslims [BBC backgrounder] who make up 10 to 20 percent of Afghanistan's population and was seen by many as a conciliatory move by Karzai to appease the Taliban and increase his approval among Shi'ites before he faces re-election in August [JURIST report].

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.