The Islamic Post Blog

Afghan Family Law Debate: Human Rights Versus Right to Culture by Khalida
May 21, 2009, 6:00 am
Filed under: International, May Volume I - 2009, World

Afghan lawmakers agreed to withdraw draft legislation for new family laws that had been initiated by minority Afghan Shiites.

(IP) –After an ensuing clamor from the United Nations, governments and media worldwide called a new family law bill discriminatory towards women, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told the Canadian Broadcasting Centre (CBC) that he was informed by his counterpart in Afghanistan that the draft “has been halted and will be revised.”
Canada has invested some $3 billion dollars in the Afghan War, and while some Canadians decried the added attempt to reshape local Afghan customs, the majority of Canadians joined the wider international community in condemning the laws which they say could lead to abusive practices amongst Shiites who form roughly 15% of the population.
The Shiite minority in Afghanistan had reportedly called for a version of family law distinct from that of the Muslim majority.
Critics claim the bill left room for forced marital relations. But the version signed by Karzai says a wife can refuse marital relations on the basis of “lawful or logical excuses or with permission of her husband,” influential Shiite parliamentarian Sayed Hussein Alimi Balkhi told Agence France Press (AFP). Another change, according to AFP, allows the woman to leave home without permission “for any lawful purpose within the boundaries accepted by custom,” said Balkhi, who was involved in drawing up the law. Also according to AFP, other demands –such as a separate family court and short-term marriages– had already been rejected.
The controversial legislation encouraged a woman to stay at home with the primary occupation of raising a family. Canadian psychologist, Dr Henry Makow took offense at the extent of the outcry over the bill asserting in his article “NATO Spooked by Afghan Laws Upholding Patriarchy:” “We don’t have the right to force our values on other cultures… How would we like if they [Afghans] forced our women to give up their careers, raise their children and keep house?”


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