NEW YORK (TrustLaw) – The Afghan government seemingly took a step back on women’s rights by supporting a more conservative interpretation of Islamic law, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Determined to strike a peace deal with the Taliban before the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014, president Hamid Karzai’s government approved a statement by a state-appointed council of 150 Muslim clerics demanding that Afghan law require women to be veiled, forbidding them from mixing with men or traveling without a male chaperone.
Karzai posted the council’s statement on his website, which some activists interpreted as a tacit approval.
According to a translation by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, that statement read, “Men are fundamental and women are secondary.”
The council also included a number of recommendations consonant with Karzai’s political positions, including promoting peace talks with the Taliban and the hand-over of US-controlled prisons to the Afghan government, according to the Journal report.
“The future of women’s rights in Afghanistan is more unpredictable than at any stage over the last 10 years,” said the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization in a report issued on March 6.
“Most of women’s important achievements over the last decade are likely to be reversed,” it warned.
Women’s rights advocates in Afghanistan said that any compromise between the government and the Taliban may threaten women’s rights gains made in the past decade since the Taliban were routed from the country. These rights include the right to vote, hold public office and get an education.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised that any peace talks with the Taliban, which also are supported by the U.S., will not result in an erosion of women’s rights.
However, Karzai told a news conference on March 6 that he supported the Ulama Council’s statements, asserting that they would strengthen, not weaken, women’s rights.
(Editing by Maria Caspani)