Afghan parliament halts debate on women’s rights law


A debate by Afghan MPs about beefing up a law to prevent violence against women has been halted amid angry scenes

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David Loyn in Kabul writes:

Afghanistan’s Law to Eliminate Violence Against Women, remains in force. It was signed by President Karzai in 2009 and did not need parliamentary approval.

But nothing is certain in this young democracy, and those who brought it to parliament, led by a potential presidential candidate, Fawzia Koofi, wanted it approved there so it was irreversible. But women activists who feared that debating it would give a platform to the most fundamentalist voices were proved right. Its withdrawal for now puts further progress on women’s rights into legal limbo.

There have been hundreds of successful prosecutions under the law – some resulting in jail terms. But changing attitudes in the Afghan countryside will take more than a change in the law, and the failed debate will strengthen the hand of fundamentalists who see the law as opposed to Sharia.