Preen for me: Karzais vision of Afghan women?

So, why are our troops in Afghanistan if they’re helping to defend a government like this one? … was the question in a couple of interviews I’ve done since I last blogged on Friday.

Bearing in mind that interviewers were referring to the shocking new “Shiite Personal Status Law” in Afghanistan (legalised rape in marriage, women imprisoned in their own homes, legalised child marriage) then you have to say: good question.

According to what the Times says is a leaked copy of the law, the new law will includes provisions like these:

* “Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband” (article 132);

* “The wife does not have the right to the provision of maintenance by the husband unless she agrees to have intercourse with him and he gets an opportunity for doing so” (article 177);

* The husband can stop the wife from any unnecessary, un-Islamic act. The wife cannot leave the house without the permission of the husband (article 133);

* and  – my personal favourite – “The wife is bound to preen for her husband, as and when he desires” (article132 again).

Preen? Preen!?? Not surprisingly, there’s been an international outcry. There was reference to it all through the weekend’s coverage of the NATO summit, Amnesty Afghan researcher Horia Mosadiq was debating it with former Defence Secretary Des Browne and Ashraf Haidari from the Afghanistan embassy in Washington on Newsnight on Friday (check out some of the angry comments on the programme blog), and Gordon Brown and other heads of state have spoken out about it.

Karzai’s now on the defensive. He reckons that there’s been mistranslation and misreporting of the “sexual desire” law, a law that’s not been officially published yet (with words like “preen” being bandied about, maybe that’s true). The “review” that’s now been announced by the president, as Jezebel reports, is at least a step back in the right direction. With the law set to affect (by my calculation) about 2.5 million Afghan women, the least Karzai can do is ensure that women’s rights are not catapulted back to Taliban-like servitude.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Taliban: a quick update on that vile video of the flogging of a girl in the Swat valley of neighbouring Pakistan. There’s comparatively good news here too. The (recently re-imposed) chief justice of Pakistan Muhammad Chaudhry has ordered an investigation. 

Bizarrely, the Times of India is simultaneously reporting that the girl who was apparently shown being flogged in the video is now herself saying it didn’t happen and that the footage has been faked. Go figure …

The point is still the same though: the Taliban and Taliban-like extremists in Swat valley have been dishing out brutal punishments and they’re apparently keen to propagandise about it. If the government in Islamabad fails to stand up to them we could end up with two countries in this region where governments are pandering to anti-women extremists.

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