Religious-Right Lawmakers Block Legislation Protecting Afghan Women

Conservative lawmakers in Afghanistan have blocked legislation that would enshrine in law current government policies designed to protect women's freedoms.

The legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced to the nation's 352-member National Assembly, after an outcry from right-wing religious groups. Liberals are concerned that if the policies are not made law, they could be overturned by a future president.

"2014 is coming, change is coming, and the future of women in this country is uncertain. A new president will come and if he doesn't take women's rights seriously he can change the decree," said Fawzia Koofi, head of the National Assembly's women's commission.

Before US-led coalition forces overthrew Taliban control 12 years ago, women in Afghanistan could not vote, work, or seek education.

The legislation seeks to maintain Sharia or Islamic religious law, while simultaneously protecting women's basic rights. It lists the following objectives:

1. Maintaining Sharia and legal rights and protecting the human dignity of women.  

2. Protecting families and fighting against customs, traditions and practices causing 

violence against women and which are against Islamic Sharia. 

3. Protecting and supporting women who are victims of, or at risk of violence. 

4. Prevention of violence against women. 

5. Maintain public awareness and training on violence against women.

6. Prosecuting perpetrators of violence against women. 

But right-wing religious forces in the country interpret Sharia law differently than those who would protect women's rights and safety. Religious legislators objected to at least eight articles in the legislation, including maintaining the legal age for girls to marry at 16, providing shelters for domestic abuse victims, and limiting men to two wives.

Sources: Huffington Post, Reuters, SAARC, Women Peace & Security.


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