Something deeper at work: a couple of updates on the Shia Family Law

According to the IHT, Karzai says he’s going to review the law to make sure it does not contravene the Afghan Constitution, but added:

“The Western media have either mistranslated or taken incorrect information and then published it.”

Riiiight. It’s entirely the media’s fault, and the executive bears no responsibility for its silence until now regarding the law.

Karzai also said:

“If there is anything in contradiction with our Constitution or Shariah, or freedoms granted by the Constitution, we will take action in close consultation with the clerics of the country.”

No mention of consulting with female MPs, nevermind female Shia MPs, or human rights activists, or even just ordinary Shia citizens in general. Nope. None at all. And it’s not like these groups have nothing to add.

Ms. [Soraya Rahim] Sobhrang, who has been working on the issue for the last two years, said women’s groups and the human rights commissions had worked with Parliament to introduce amendments but then the law was suddenly pushed through with only three amendments. The bill as originally drawn up by Shiite clerics barred a woman from leaving the house without her husband’s permission, she said. The parliamentary judicial commission amended that provision to say that a woman could leave the house “for a legitimate purpose.”

Mr. Karzai cited that provision in a news conference on Saturday, pointing out that the final version of the law did not ban a woman from leaving her house. But Ms. Sobhrang said even as amended the law contravened the Constitution, which recognizes equal rights for men and women. The term “for a legitimate purpose” was open to interpretation, she added.

[…]

Human rights officials consider raising the marriage age a critical step toward ending the common practice of forced marriages and the marriage of young girls.

Another amendment gave women longer custody of young children in the case of divorce. In the original draft, women could have custody of a son until he was 2 years old, and a daughter until she was 7. The amended version raises the ages to 7 for boys and 9 for girls.

Ms. Sobhrang criticized both versions for not taking into account the interests and desires of the children.She said Mr. Karzai had supported women’s rights in the past but seemed to have given that up in recent months.

Some Western officials have speculated that he signed the law to win the support of conservative Shiite clerics in coming presidential elections.

Yes, because the Shia will blindly do as their clerics tell them, those lemming-like Shia. Seems to me like said Western officials either don’t care to scrutinize Karzai’s motives, or are totally clueless about Afghan Shia. Possibly both.

Hamesha adds the following, which is important to keep in mind as the story develops:

the timing of the release of this law to the public and the media, the way the media has lapped it all up and made quick work of a narrative that conveniently ties into the western world’s presence in afghanistan as defenders of women’s rights and democracy, the way the government has presented it, the fog that surrounds its actual contents -all these, and more, smack of something deeper at work. also the way it has been presented as a measure of last resort for a president who has his hands tied over the matter and is only appeasing the feared, oh so traditionalist, and oh SO united shia minority in advance of the next elections -right. as transitionland put it, these folks have bigger worries and in survey after survey of the people of afghanistan by the asia foundation, the attitudes of this particular constituency of the electorate towards democratic and even liberal values and women’s rights stand in stark contrast to what this convenient narrative purports.

that’s right -something deeply sinister at work.

Keep that in mind.

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