President Karzai has recently signed Qanon-e Ahwal-e Shakhsiah Ahl-e Tashaio’a, or the Law on Private Matters of the Shiites, a new legislation dealing with the private matters of the Shiite population of Afghanistan. The move has provoked an outcry among the Afghan civil society and the international community. A number of articles in the new law contradict the basic principles of human rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and our national obligations under international human rights conventions and treaties, particularly the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In a Taliban-style provision, this law conditions women’s movement outside her house to the consent of her husband. The law undermines the progress towards realization of human rights, empowers and institutionalizes a radically hard-line interpretation of the holy religion of Islam and sets a bad precedent for future conservative legislations and government policies.
The Afghanistan Watch has been following the debates surrounding the approval of the legislation in the National Assembly. It believes that the law is written in line with the most conservative interpretation of Shiite jurisprudence and many progressive and moderate voices coming out of the Afghan civil society, the Shiite religious scholars and from within the parliament during the debate over the draft law were ignored and sidelined. The views expressed in the law are dictated by the most conservative and a minority of the Shiite ulema in Afghanistan. The organization believes that enforcement of some provisions of the new law will be a setback for the promotion of women’s and children’s rights which have often been presented as the main goals of the international intervention and the post-Taliban political process in the country. This will also erode the hopes and aspirations of Afghan women and children after years of war and total exclusion under the Taliban for liberty, political and legal equality and improvement in their living conditions after nearly 8 years of democratic experiment.
As a member of Afghan civil society, the Afghanistan Watch is deeply alarmed that laws such as this can be passed by the democratically elected national assembly and singed into effect by the President.
Afghanistan Watch calls on the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Speakers and Members of both Houses of the National Assembly to reconsider this law in line with the commitments and obligations of Afghanistan under its Constitution and international human rights obligations.
The Afghanistan Watch also calls upon the international community, the UN, international human rights organizations and the diplomatic community in Kabul to consistently advocate and pressure the Afghan government and the parliament to respect universally recognized human rights values and norms.
April 5 2009