Not seeing the bigger picture on the Shia Family Law

More information is coming out about the Shia Family Law. The UN has the final text. The Associated Press also seems to have at least part of it.

From the New York Times:

April 3, 2009
World Briefing | Asia

Afghanistan: Critics Speak Out on ‘Rape Law’



A new Afghan law makes it legal for men to rape their wives, human rights groups and several Afghan lawmakers said Thursday, accusing President Hamid Karzai of signing the legislation recently to bolster his re-election prospects. Those critics fear the legislation undermines hard-won rights for women enacted after the fall of the Taliban. The law is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan’s Shiite population, which makes up about 20 percent of the total Afghan population. It does not affect Sunni Muslims. “Unless the wife is ill,” the law says, “the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband.”

The United Nations Development Fund for Women said Thursday that the law “legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband.” Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman, said Thursday that the United States was “very concerned” about the law. “We urge President Karzai to review the law’s legal status to correct provisions of the law that limit or restrict women’s rights,” he said.

I really wish this hadn’t been made into a Rape Issue. Yes, the sanction of spousal rape is implied by the law, according to very reliable sources, but there are other problematic things about the law, such as restrictions on women’s freedom of movement and rights to education, work and access to healthcare. 

We’re three days into the news cylce on this story, and the focus of the story has gone from women’s human rights to RAPE RAPE RAPE! AFGHAN GOVERNMENT WANTS RAPES! CRAZY AFGHANS AT IT AGAIN!

I’m sure the unhappy and unnamed Afghan lawmakers and the UNIFEM spokesperson commented on other stipulations of the law, by the way. But the articles coming out now aren’t adressing much besides the rape angle. 

This is troubling for a number of reasons, but not least of which is the possibility that if the law is changed, its supporters may figure all they have to do to please the international community is remove the clause that says a wife can’t refuse sex with her husband unless she’s ill.

2 thoughts on “Not seeing the bigger picture on the Shia Family Law

  1. Unfortunately the rape angle is, pardon the expression, “sexy.” It’s the same reason that child sex trafficking gets so much press and NGO attention, even though child labor trafficking is much more prevelant.

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