Afghanistan legalizes marital rape

President Hamid Karzai has signed over women's bodies to their husbands.

Published April 1, 2009 7:15PM (EDT)

Shortly after Hillary Clinton called the failure of U.S. aid to Afghanistan "heartbreaking," there came some illustrative news: President Hamid Karzai has legalized rape within marriage. You might ask, nervously: This is a sick April Fool's joke, right? Sadly, no, this is a sick reality.

The law, which applies to the minority Shia population, renders meaningless sexual consent within marriage. A Shia woman is allowed to refuse her husband sex if she is sick, but otherwise she has no sexual say-so. As if that weren't enough of a blow to female freedom, the law, believed to be a desperate bid by Karzai for reelection this summer, also stipulates that women must have their husband's permission to leave the house.

In sum, the Shia Family Law legally codifies that common, if taboo, cross-cultural belief that a husband deserves free reign over his wife's body -- oh, and his daughters' bodies. The law bars women from having custody of their own children and endorses child marriage.

Human rights activists say the law annihilates the progress made on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban. In fact, some say it actually makes things "worse than during the Taliban." Mm-hm: Worse than the women-hating (-imprisoning, -beating, -flogging, -mutilating, -stoning) Taliban.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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