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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Hamid Karzai backs clerics' move to limit Afghan women's rights


Afghanistan's president has endorsed a "code of conduct" issued by an influential council of clerics which activists say represents a giant step backwards for women's rights in the country.
President Hamid Karzai's endorsement of the Ulema Council's document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes, is seen as part of his outreach to insurgents including the Taliban.
Both the US and Karzai hope that the Taliban can be brought into negotiations to end the country's decade-long war. But activists say they are worried that gains made by women since 2001 may be lost in the process.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan prior to the 2001 US invasion, girls were banned from going to school and women had to wear burqas that covered them from head to toe. Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative as an escort.
The "code of conduct" issued by the Ulema Council, as part of a longer statement on national political issues, is cast as a set of guidelines that religious women should obey voluntarily, but activists are concerned it will herald a reversal of the trend in Afghanistan since 2001 to pass laws aimed at expanding women's rights.
Among the rules: women should not travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with strange men in places such as schools, markets and offices. Beating one's wife is prohibited only if there is no "sharia-compliant reason," referring to the principles of Islamic law. Read more...

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