Afghan Women Draft Bill of Rights
by Luke Thomas
Digital Freedom Network
A document called the Afghan Women's Bill of Rights has been drafted and delivered to Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.
Women leaders have written a document that promotes the rights of women in Afghanistan. The International Herald Tribune reports that even though Afghanistan is no longer under Taliban rule, "violence against women has increased dramatically since the war."
Interestingly, the bill was written at a conference in Kandahar, an area full of tribal warlords and Taliban resurgence. The writers of this document correctly claim having the conference in such a dangerous area underscores the need for a bill of rights protecting Afghan women.
The conference brought together 45 ethnically diverse women and community leaders involved in human and women's rights in Afghanistan, both educated and uneducated, from rural provinces around the country. Supporters believe the document is fully representative of all Afghan women.
The Afghan Women's Bill of Rights has 16 provisions that include provisions such as freedom of speech, rights to marry and divorce according to Islam, freedom to vote and run for election to office, full inclusion of women in the judiciary system, full rights of inheritance, and equal pay for equal work. There are other demands for massive government intervention such as "mandatory education for women though secondary school and opportunities for all women for higher education." While this does call for an expanded use of the government, the larger issue at hand is the years of exclusion of women from any kind of education resulting in roughly 80% illiteracy rates for women.
There are also six "additional demands" that address broader issues such as disarmament and national security, a commitment to end governmental corruption and trials of war criminals in international criminal courts and the disempowerment of warlords.
Afghan women also called for criminal charges to be brought against men for domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse, in both public and at home the New York Times reports. They also called for the elimination of other anachronistic practices such as giving women or girls as compensation for crimes committed by one family against another and the marriage of girls under the age of 18.
Abuse of women is often linked solely to the six-year rule of the Taliban, but that is an unfortunate misconception. The New York Times reports that in 1964, Afghanistan adopted a Constitution that made progressive specifications especially compared to the constitutions of many of its neighbors. Additionally, a civil code and family law were drafted in 1976 that gave women some important rights. However, the legal system in Afghanistan has been minimally functional and often ignored. As a result, cultural and social mores have provided the rules and regulations of adjudication.
There is also reasonable worry among foreign diplomats that with a constitution to be drafted in December, there could be a mandatory binding of sharia, or Islamic law, to the constitution, which could undermine the rights of women. The document is to be drafted and approved before a loya jirga, or grand assembly where many are not comfortable with the idea of women having so many constitutional protections.
The women of Afghanistan who participated in the drafting of their Bill of Rights should be applauded for their effort and courage. To not only express their legitimate democratic interests to their leaders and to the world, but also to also perform these actions in an extremely hostile area is remarkable. The U.S., with 11,000 troops mainly guarding infrastructure projects, should take note of this development. This step towards equality does not necessarily merit the use of additional troops, but it does require a dutiful monitoring of developments to come in the constitution of Afghanistan. Women and Afghanistan have come far since the era of Taliban rule and any step backward must be avoided.
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While reading this article, I thought it would be of some interest to those, whom have been battling it out about Islamâ€™s gender issues. To me it seems these Muslim women are in agreement with the non-Muslims of Israel Forum.