A proposed law to protect Afghan women and girls from abuses such as child marriage, bride barter and spousal abuse has created a furor in the past week, exposing a generational and religious struggle that persists in this traditional Muslim society despite a decade of Western-backed democracy and a constitution that enshrines women’s rights.
The drama erupted when a female legislator brought the bill before parliament May 16 and a group of conservative male lawmakers vehemently objected, saying it was contrary to Islam and Afghan culture. The backlash grew this past week, with protests at Kabul University by students of Islamic law, and some women activists now say it was a fatal mistake to bring the sensitive issue to parliament’s attention.
Since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women have made substantial gains in access to jobs, education and public life. But the position of girls and women in family life has remained weak and subservient, and they are vulnerable to abuse. Now, with NATO forces preparing to withdraw in 2014 and Taliban influence on the rise, there are growing concerns that the gains could be reversed.
Read the rest: Fight to Protect Afghan Women Meets Sharia Backlash