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Afghanistan: New ’legalises rape’

Saturday 4 April 2009, by siawi
- Friday, 03 April 2009

New Afghan law ’legalises rape’

A new Afghan law makes it legal for men to rape their wives, human rights groups and some Afghan politicians said.

They accused 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 politicians say was never debated in parliament - is intended to regulate family life inside Afghanistan’s Shiite community, which makes up about 20% of the country’s 30 million population. 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”.

Article 132 of the law says: “As long as the husband is not travelling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night. 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 “legalises the rape of a wife by her husband”.

The US is “very concerned” about the law, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. “We urge President Karzai to review the law’s legal status to correct provisions of the law that limit or restrict women’s rights.”

Wood added that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had met with female Afghan politicians in The Hague and had assured them that “women’s rights are going to be paramount in this administration’s foreign policy, not an afterthought.”