Protecting the Rights of Afghan Women is AlterNet’s Top Take Action Campaign This Week

The Afghan parliament is expected to soon approve revisions to its marriage law that will do very little in the way of improving women’s rights. Despite recent demands that the country radically rework its policies on issues such as polygamy and a woman’s right to work, Afghanistan’s government is signaling a continued adherence to regressive traditions.

In a recent letter to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, activists said, “slight changes in the wordings of the law, rather than changes in content,” have rendered the revisions ineffectual.

Additionally, Shinkai Kharokhel, a lawmaker involved in the legislation, told the Associated Press on July 14 that the law’s revisions do little more than uphold structural inequalities in the country. She said many Afghan women “are illiterate, and they don’t have financial security and no one will give her money … shelter, medical, food, all these expenses belong to the man, and he can hold that back.”

What is perhaps most unfortunate among the “revisions” is the Afghan government’s failure to erase a law that calls on women to engage in sex with their husbands at least every four days. Although the proposed revisions do eliminate a time frame for sexual requirements, they still allow a man to withhold financial support for his wife if she refuses to “submit to her husband’s reasonable sexual enjoyment,” Human Rights Watch has reported.

Women’s rights issues in the country don’t stop there; violence continues at an alarming rate. “The situation of women is becoming more disastrous,” ex-parliamentarian and women’s-rights advocate Malalai Joya told IPS news on July 17. “The killing of women is like killing a bird today in Afghanistan.”

Elaborating on her claim is this excerpt from a recent U.N. report:

Violence against women is widespread and deeply rooted as well as acute. The violence that scars the lives of a huge proportion of Afghan women and girls is rooted in Afghan culture, customs, attitudes and practices.

Afghan women have limited freedom to escape the norms and traditions that dictate a subservient status for females. Women in Afghanistan are also subjected to the violence inherent in armed conflict that has intensified in recent years and is exacting an increasingly heavy toll on Afghan civilians.

Violence, in its acute form, makes it presence felt in widespread lawlessness and criminality. All these forms of violence are closely linked to a deeply entrenched culture of impunity that is, in part, an outcome of decades of conflict and indifference to a justice agenda that would also allow for a transition from, and draw a line under, a long history of egregious human-rights violations.

Helping Afghanistan’s courageous women means accumulating international voices to condemn their mistreatment. You can be part of the solution here.

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