Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Afghan Women -3 Steps Forward and 2 Steps Back

One of the good things we have accomplished in Afghanistan has been the advancement and protection of women's rights. Now it seems our good buddy Karzi is backing a religious council's set of "guidelines" for the behavior of women which is based entirely on strict interpretation of Sharia Law.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan prior to the 2001 US invasion, girls were banned from going to school and women had to wear burquas that covered them from head to toe. Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative as an escort. When the Taliban were chased from power conditions for women improved dramatically. They were allowed to wear clothes other than the burqua, allowed to go to school and given the right to vote.

But that all may be changing now and the first move in a backwards direction is being made with the knowledge and cooperation of the man we have propped up for years, in spite of his corrupt and criminal activities and the fact that he regularly manipulates situations purely for his personal interests. Afghanistan's president has endorsed a "code of conduct" issued by an influential council of clerics which represents a giant step backwards for women's rights in the country.

President Hamid Karzai claims that his endorsement of the Ulema Council's (a group powerful religious clerics) document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes, is part of his outreach to insurgents including the Taliban. - and it probably is. He is certainly willing to sacrifice Afghan women in order to stay in power a few minutes longer.

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 many 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.

Asked about the code of conduct at a press conference in Kabul, Karzai said it was in line with Islamic law and was written in consultation with Afghan women's groups. Surprisingly, he did not say just what women's groups were consulted.

In a perfect example of his talking out of both sides of his mouth, Karzi made the statement: "The clerics' council of Afghanistan did not put any limitations on women," only to add: "It is the sharia law of all Muslims and all Afghans."

Karzai's public backing of the council's guidelines is intended to make his own government more palatable to the Taliban and he is also trying to keep on the good side of the Ulema Council, which could be a valuable intermediary in speaking to the insurgents.But either way, women's activists say that Karzai's endorsement means existing or planned laws aimed at protecting women's rights may be sacrificed for peace negotiations. So much for another justification for our "Nation Building" in Afghanistan..... When are we going to wake up and realize that, generally speaking, people in that part of the world simply do not believe in the same values as we do, and that Western style democracy and laws just will not work there. The people there must develop their own forms of government and want to live under laws reflecting their own values, not ours (even if they look abusive and backward to us).

OK, enough serious stuff. How about a little "just for fun"?

Live Long and Prosper....

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