Afghan Law Allows Husbands to Starve Wives if They Refuse Sexual Demands

Sunday, August 16, 2009
Hamid Karzai

Needing the political support of Shia men in next week’s election, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai approved a law earlier this year that not only doesn’t exactly legalize marital rape, but does allow husbands to withhold food from wives who refuse their sexual advances. The law caused an international outcry when it was adopted in March but then it faded from the news. However, the law did quietly go into effect July 27. It applies only to the Shia minority, which makes up 10-20% of the population. Despite their small size, Shia men have been courted by Karzai to ensure his re-election on August 20.

Shia husbands are permitted to “withdraw basic maintenance” from their wives for refusing to sleep with them, according to Human Rights Watch. The same law grants men exclusive guardianship of children, requires women to get permission from their husbands to work, and allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying “blood money” to his female victim.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, Brad Adams, remarked: “The rights of Afghan women are being ripped up by powerful men who are using women as pawns in maneuvers to gain power. These kinds of barbaric laws were supposed to have been relegated to the past with the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, yet Karzai has revived them and given them his official stamp of approval.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff


Leave a comment