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Abolishing women’s rights: revisiting the Afghan Parliament’s "Shiite Family Personal Status (Rape) Law"

Viewpoint from an Afghan woman
Shiko Zaher
Thursday 15 October 2009

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I am from a distant place; a place, whose plights are hardly felt beyond its geographical borders; a place where women’s wail bears no meaning; a place where a group of religious fanatics can disregard all the values and norms of a human society. I am talking to you on behalf of the women whose cries are unheard from the far corners of the country of my origin, on behalf of victims of abuse and persecution, on behalf of the women of Afghanistan who have no say in their lives, whose very personal behavior is to be approved by the male members of the family and who have to breathe the way their husbands want. These are not jokes, but a few of the bitter realities in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, where you are made to buy one’s idea and religion according to which women are “incomplete human beings or the second gender”.

The recent shameless move by the religious leaders being backed by the legislative institutions in Afghanistan poses serious challenges for everyone who believes in human rights and human dignity, it is a red light to the success and effectiveness of the efforts of the international community in the post 9/11 Afghanistan. The new “rape law” drafted in Mashhad, Iran, passed by the Afghan Parliament and signed by Hamid Karzai is not a minor incident but part of a religious strategy which can legalize any inhuman acts, such as stoning and flogging the women; no doubt, if allowed, the next step would be a different version of what Afghanistan experienced in 1990s and what is going on in Pakistan.

Women of Afghanistan have always been the victims of idealist arrogance. For centuries now women have been denied the rights to inheritance, choose their own partner in marriage, and work; either by government decree or by their own husbands, fathers, and brothers. Schools for girls have been burned down, girls have been victims of acid attacks, many of the women who cannot bear these issues commit suicide and many more have undergone physical and psychological torment for daring to venture into new horizons. Many more, including prominent activists and professionals have been shot and killed.

The fall of Taliban brought with it a temporary moment of hope for a better future for all people especially women. Unfortunately, despite the passage of 8 years, endless promises and little action, little has changed. Women are forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, in most parts of the country women are still not allowed to seek medical help from a male doctor, they undergo marital rape, and they are forced to cover themselves from head to toe and so on so forth. 90% of these women are still unable to put across their problems. The really painful aspect of these developments is the implementation of these barbaric laws right under the eyes of the civilized world, developed nations and in the name of democracy.

Article 132 and 177 of this Rape Law requires wives to submit to their husbands’ sexual demands. The law thereby, legalizes marital rape.
Another article automatically strips divorced mothers of the custody of their children. Other articles legalize polygamy and allow husbands to wed their wives’ sisters and cousins. The law forbids women to leave the house without the permission of their husbands or fathers except under unspecified ‘exceptional circumstances’ and it goes from bad to worse. All of this designed by a bunch of lunatic fanatics whose aim is to keep arrogance and ignorance alive and victimize the most vulnerable of human beings as much as they can and so long as they can.

I urge you all, I urge the international community, I urge the noble citizens of this country, and I urge the Australian government to help us help Afghan women seek justice. I urge you all to do your part in raising the alarm over the Rape Law and other horrible developments in Afghanistan.

It is sad that while the soldiers give their lives trying to protect a fragile state against Taliban extremists, another bunch of extremists sit in powerful and protected positions in the Afghan government and seek to implement Talibanization in a different name. A fundamentalist government, extremist legislators, Islamist warlords and Stone Age laws are not worth the commitment of the international community; persecutions of women and minorities as official policy, religious fundamentalism are not worth the lives and efforts being put in danger by the soldiers from the International community.


Salam, This is my speech from a protest held on 12/05/2009 in regards to the "Rape Law" passed in Afghanistan. Your feedback on this topic would be appreciated. Many thanks.

Photos by Robert Maier

My name is Shiko Zaher,currently living in Australia and migrated like most of my Afghan brothers and sisters from Quetta city of Pakistan. I have just finished High school and planning to attend Uni in the following year. One of my favorite saying about human race is "You and I may disagree that a piece of wood is orange or red and that’s ok, but we can agree that it is a piece of wood. And maybe we can forget what color the piece of wood is and just repaint it so that half is red and the other half is orange"

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Forum posts

  • Dear Shiko, Your viwe and your sympathy is appriciated, and its well done that you express the voice of a society which has been mute since the invasion of a foreign wild desert culture. I think this silent society needs such brave and warrior persons like you who can make people arround the world hear our voices and help us fight and defeat this antihumanism idiology in our country.
    For me religion is private, and MUST NOT be interfared in politics. Its very unlogic and unfair when people’s minds are surrounding by these kinds of stoneage toughts which come from a man who has no wide and scientific prospective about the progress and developments of the society.
    These kinds of old and stoneage thoughts which push down the society is strongly condemned.

    I hope that you condemn the idiology at all, Not only the person.
    Many of our landsmen protested agressively against the Rape Law, becuase it was a purpose of an non-hazara person. Many of the Hazara Mullahs have confirmed the purpose, but no one did say anything against it.
    I hope you undrestand my viwe, cuz my english is very poor.

    Best regards
    Looking further to hear more from you

    • The perpetrators want to take away the liberty that Hazara women enjoy and restrict their social freedom by the religious zealots — similar to the Taliban era, when women were not allowed to go out for education, work or doctor’s visit without a male companion. Through such legislations and religious sentiments in public, the religious fanatics want to promote religious extremism in Hazara society. Because currently, the Chairperson of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and the former first vice-president of Afghanistan, Ms. Sima Samar, is a Hazara. The first-ever female Governor in Afghanistan is Habiba Sarabi, another Hazara. The first-ever female mayor in Afghanistan, Uzra Jaffery, is a Hazara. In the 2004 presidential election, the highest female voter registration was recorded in Hazara areas.

      Shiko khowar – Thanks for speaking on behalf of Hazara women. The foregoing vignettes of the work and achievements of Hazara women, over several decades and centuries, demonstrate their capacities in providing sound leadership and for making a difference. We have always been a liberal nation traditionally and we will remain so. Despite the attempts of such “Shiite Family Law” by religious extremists to influence the society and its natural liberal traditions through religious sentiments.


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