I’ve blogged a couple times, earlier this year, about a then-recently-passed law in Afghanistan which legalizes the mistreatment of Shi’ite women by their husbands. President Hamid Karzai appeared to put the brakes on this law, and placed it under review, which — temporarily at least — prevented it from taking effect. At the time I suspected this “review” would be short-lived and the law would quietly take effect, with Karzai hoping no one would notice. As it turns out, I was correct, although Karzai didn’t get his wish. It was noticed, as the New York Times Lede blog reports:

Afghan Husbands Win Right to Starve Wives

Bowing to international pressure and unprecedented protests by hundreds of women on the streets of Kabul, the Afghan government promised in April to review a new law imposing severe restrictions on women in Shiite Muslim families.

Last week, though, Human Rights Watch discovered that a revised version of the Shiite Personal Status Law had been quietly put into effect at the end of July — meaning that Shiite men in Afghanistan now have the legal right to starve their wives if their sexual demands are not met and that Shiite women must obtain permission from their husbands to even leave their houses, “except in extreme circumstances.” …

When the law was first approved, President Barack Obama called it “abhorrent,” but has not yet responded to reports that it has now been revised and put into effect, perhaps because Afghanistan’s election is just days away.

That the law’s proponent, Sheik Muhammad Asif Mohseni, was able to find women who supported it, is not meaningful, because the word of this women cannot be trusted as genuine … they may have been pressured, either directly by the Shi’ite clergy and their own husbands, or indirectly by centuries of religiously-enforced oppression, to say they like this law, in spite of it not being in their best interests.

Moreover, as the blog entry points out, although this law applies — as written — only to Shi’ites in Afghanistan, it nevertheless appeals to the Sunni majority, creating a danger that it will be applied to all Afghan women:

Although the law applies only to Shiites, Soraya Sobhrang, commissioner for women’s rights at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said in April that it could influence a proposed family law for the Sunni majority and a draft law on violence against women. She told The Times in April, “This opens the way for more discrimination.”

Normally this type of reasoning would be called “slippery-slope” thinking, however, in this case it’s not entirely fallacious; such policies were in effect for all women during the Taliban regime. It’s not impossible that Afghanistan might revert to Taliban-like administration.

Makes me wonder what coalition forces have been fighting for, since the end of 2001. Sure, we toppled the Taliban regime, but Taliban sentiment is nevertheless alive and well in that backward country.

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