April 3, 2009 in Nation/World

Critics say Afghan law ‘legalizes rape’

Lawmakers say measure wasn’t debated
Fisnik Abrashi Associated Press
 

KABUL – A new Afghan law makes it legal for men to rape their wives, human rights groups and some Afghan lawmakers said Thursday, accusing President Hamid Karzai of signing the legislation to bolster his re-election prospects.

Critics worry the legislation undermines hard-won rights for women enacted after the fall of the Taliban’s strict Islamist regime.

The law – which some lawmakers say was never debated in parliament – is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan’s Shiite community, which makes up about 20 percent of this country of 30 million people. The law does not affect Afghan Sunnis.

One of the most controversial articles stipulates the wife “is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires.”

“As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night,” Article 132 of the law says. “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.”

One provision also appears to protect the woman’s right to sex inside marriage saying the “man should not avoid having sexual relations with his wife longer than once every four months.”

The law’s critics say Karzai signed the legislation in the past month only for political gains several months before the country’s presidential election.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, said the law “legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband.” “The law violates women’s rights and human rights in numerous ways,” a UNIFEM statement said.

Karzai has not commented on the law. A spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the president is “aware of the discussion surrounding the law, and is looking into the matter.”

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