The Guardian reports on a cunning plan from lawmakers in Afghanistan.
A new Afghan law will allow men to attack their wives, children and sisters without fear of judicial punishment, undoing years of slow progress in tackling violence in a country blighted by so-called “honour” killings, forced marriage and vicious domestic abuse.
The small but significant change to Afghanistan’s criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.
That’s family values. The family comes first, and outsiders must never mess with it. That’s how it is with the Amish, for sure – abused women and children are supposed to forgive, not report.
Under the new law, prosecutors could never come to court with cases like that of Sahar Gul, a child bride whose in-laws chained her in a basement and starved, burned and whipped her when she refused to work as a prostitute for them. Women like 31-year-old Sitara, whose nose and lips were sliced off by her husband at the end of last year, could never take the stand against their attackers.
“Honour” killings by fathers and brothers who disapprove of a woman’s behaviour would be almost impossible to punish. Forced marriage and the sale or trading of daughters to end feuds or settle debt would also be largely beyond the control of the law in a country where the prosecution of abuse is already rare.
But maybe Karzai won’t sign the law?
Don’t get your hopes up.
“We will ask the president not to sign until the article is changed, we will put a lot of pressure on him,” said Selay Ghaffar, director of the shelter and advocacy group Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan. She said activists hoped to repeat the success of a campaign in 2009 that forced Karzai to soften a family law enshrining marital rape as a husband’s right.
But that was five years ago, and since then Karzai has presided over a strengthening of conservative forces. In the last year alone parliament has blocked a law to curb violence against women and cut the quota for women on provincial councils, while the justice ministry floated a proposal to bring back stoning as a punishment for adultery.
It’s strange to see lawmakers actually promoting and protecting violence against women. “Vote for a better Afghanistan, with more violence against women.”
H/t Al Lee