The international community has been in an uproar over reports of a new Afghanistant law
, supported by US-backed President, Hamid Karzai, that severely hinders the civil liberties of Afghan women. However, despite the backlack, the US has remained relatively silent on the issue.
The law panders to Afghanistan's Shi'ite Muslim population (about 10% of the population), making it legal for men to rape their wives, and requiring women to seek their husband's permission before leaving the home. It was signed last month with relatively little fanfare.
Since the law's passing, the UN and human rights agencies have pleaded with President Karzai to overturn the law with no success. Additionally, the text of the law has not been made publicly available, so much of its content is actually unknown or speculative.
Afghanistan MP, Ustad Mohammad Akbari, has actually come out in defense of the law, delivering one of my favorite sound bites on the issue. "Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters."
Coupled with these gross human rights violations, I think possibly the most shocking aspect is the near absolute silence on this issue from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Reports have surfaced saying that while she has privately reprimanded Karzai for the law, neither she nor President Obama have yet to publicly condemn this horrific piece of legislation.
It's interesting because, during my time studying anthropology, we learned about the notion of "cultural relativism." Popular in the middle of the 20th Century, it argues that every culture is unique and should be respected for its individual ideals and values without judgment. As anthropological research methods evolved, however, it was decided that there are certain universal tenets that all cultures must adhere to. Things like murder, incest, and cannibalism are generally frowned upon regardless of context.
And although some may argue that we should respect the Shi'ite's customs this law attempts to "protect," there should never be an instance where the world stands idly by while one group maliciously and vehemently degrades another.
Labels: Feminism, Gender, Health, Politics, Religion