An amended version of the Shi'ite Personal Status Law was submitted last month and published in the official gazette on July 27, bringing it into effect weeks ahead of the Aug. 20 presidential poll, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.Coincidentally, I'm re-reading Baghdad Burning in book form, and just reached the point where Riverbend rails against similar moves in post-Invasion Iraq:
"Karzai has made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election," said Brad Adams, Asia director for HRW.
"So much for any credentials he claimed as a moderate on women's issues," he said in a statement.
The legislation is meant to govern family law for minority Muslim Shi'ites, who make up about 15 percent of Afghanistan's roughly 30 million people, and is different to that for the majority Sunni population.
It requires women to satisfy their husband's sexual appetites, an article which critics have said could be used to justify marital rape and which provoked an outcry from Afghanistan's Western allies and rights groups around the world.
The amended law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work, according to HRW.
The law also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers and effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying "blood money" to a girl who was injured when he raped her, HRW said. (1)
On Wednesday our darling Iraqi Puppet Council decided that secular Iraqi family law would no longer be secular- it is now going to be according to Islamic Shari'a. Shari'a is Islamic law, whether from the Quran or quotes of the Prophet or interpretations of modern Islamic law by clerics and people who have dedicated their lives to studying Islam.Reports like these leave me wondering why we bothered.
The news has barely been covered by Western or even Arab media and Iraqi media certainly aren't covering it. It is too much to ask of Al-Iraqiya to debate or cover a topic like this one- it would obviously conflict with the Egyptian soap operas and songs. This latest decision is going to be catastrophic for females- we're going backwards.
Don't get me wrong- pure Islamic law according to the Quran and the Prophet gives women certain unalterable, nonnegotiable rights. The problem arises when certain clerics decide to do their own interpretations of these laws (and just about *anyone* can make themselves a cleric these days). The bigger problem is that Shari'a may be drastically different from one cleric to another. There are actually fundamental differences in Shari'a between the different Islamic factions or 'methahib'. Even in the same methahib, there are dozens of different clerics who may have opposing opinions. This is going to mean more chaos than we already have to deal with. We've come to expect chaos in the streets… but chaos in the courts and judicial system too?!
This is completely unfair to women specifically. Under the Iraqi constitution, men and women are equal. Under our past secular family law (which has been in practice since the '50s) women had unalterable divorce, marriage, inheritance, custody, and alimony rights. All of this is going to change. (2)
Then I remember, neither Iraq or Afghanistan was ever about improving the plight of its long sufferring population, was it? Afghanistan was attacked to divert attention from the monumental failure of the USA's intelligence services and government to protect its citizens and infrastructure from terrorist attack. Iraq was a final round in the Bush-Hussein family vendetta, and a bonus economic opportunity to secure massive contracts for American companies.
Improving human rights was a bottom-of-the-barrel issue dragged out after everything else had been used - and failed. Osama Bin Laden remains uncaught, so it can't have been about bringing him to justice. Terrorist attacks are still being planned and sometimes executed - so forget the making the world safe from terror justification. Weapons of mass destruction and Iraq links to Al Quaeda remain undiscovered. So that can be used. Now its about building democracy and improving human rights - only, as the reports abocve show, that isn't going to wash, either.
What's the next excuse goingt to be? Ending the recession by stimulating the arms trade?
1 - "Karzai sells out Afghan women over law-rights group," by Jonathon Burch, published by Reuters, 14th of August, 2009. (http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSISL328188._CH_.2400)
2 - See the posts "Shari'a and Family Law..." and "Still Brooding ...," Posted by Riverbend on Baghdad Burning, 15th and 20th of January, 2004.