Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad has said the so-called “Rape Law” is dead on arrival.
The Afghan government won’t permit any law to take effect that would require women to have sex with their husbands or restrict them from leaving their homes, the Afghan ambassador to Washington said today.
“Definitely not,” Ambassador Said Jawad said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” scheduled to air today. “This is not the law yet, and it will not become the law, because it contradicts some important principles of the Afghan constitution.”
Of course, Mohammad Asif Mohseni, the law’s primary architect, disagrees, and wants us all to butt out of it.
“The Westerners claim that they have brought democracy to Afghanistan. What does democracy mean? It means government by the people for the people. They should let the people use these democratic rights,” Mohseni told reporters in the capital, Kabul…
Mohseni argued that women and men are very far from equal in today’s Afghanistan and should not be treated as such. He pointed out that many rural women are illiterate and would not be able to find work if they were asked to provide some of the family’s financial support. Men are typically the breadwinners in Afghan households, expected to provide for their wives and children.
“It is not possible for all women to pay the same amount of money as men are paying. For all these expenses, can’t we at least give the right to a husband to demand sex from his wife after four nights?” he said.
Right, at least give them that.
But here’s what bothers me in all the hullabaloo: the law, while certainly bad about women, was ostensibly meant to protect Afghanistan’s Shia minority—the vast majority of whom are Hazara. The Hazara are the punching bags of Afghanistan: Khaled Hosseini dramatized how badly they’re mistreated in his first novel, and they suffered particularly egregious crimes under the Taliban embargo that culminated in the Buddhas of Bamiyan being destroyed. More recently, the Hazara of Wardak were victimized by rampaging Kuchi nomads furious at land use provisions—notably, Hamid Karzai declined to take action about the dozens of innocent people who died in their homes.
As the above photo, taken by a colleague on February 3 indicates, the Buddhas of Bamiyan are being rebuilt. That hasn’t stopped the almost relentless defamation of Hazaras. While I was there, I saw and heard Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Uzbeks all decry Hazaras as “worthless,” “spies and saboteurs,” or even just plain old “bad people.” In Ghazni province, there is a curious alliance of Tajiks and Pashtuns that is meant to exclude Hazaras from provincial-level politics and reconstruction.
Indeed, it is the religious aspect of this law, rather than the provisions against women (which are, let us remember, not especially novel), that worries me the most. While it may sound calloused, women have been rather publicly fighting for their rights and inclusion in Afghan society for many years. They have strong western advocates right up to the President and First Lady of the United States, and the UN and NATO Secretary-Generals, along with countless other heads of state. The Hazara, on the other hand, have precious few advocates in the International Community.
While a law targeting women for new restrictions—people should really stop throwing around the ‘Taliban’ word, since it’s not nearly as bad as their Shari’a—is bad, targeting only the women of a forgotten, ignored, and often abused minority is even worse. And that is the angle so many are ignoring in their condemnation of the law. Assuming it even passes.