Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Legalized rape is conveniently suppressed

Readers will no doubt recall the Afghan 'rape law,' revealed this Spring. Officially billed as a Shi'ite family law, it was met with harsh criticism and sent back to the drawing board when President Karzai said he never read it before signing. The revised law now nears readiness, with a little help from Canadian lawyers.

Yet an AP dispatch penned by Heidi Vogt in Afghanistan reveals the continuing misogynist reality of the Afghan government propped up by the western occupation:

Afghan marriage law still oppressive, activists say
By Heidi Vogt

KABUL, July 13 (AP) - Activists yesterday rejected proposed revisions to Afghanistan’s marriage law, calling the new version just as oppressive as the original, which critics say legalized marital rape...

The section about submitting to sex every four days was deleted, but other sections let a husband order sex, said Shinkai Kharokhel, a lawmaker involved in attempts to change the legislation.

A section explaining a husband must provide financially for his wife also says he can withhold support if she refuses to “submit to her husband’s reasonable sexual enjoyment,’’ according to Human Rights Watch.

That’s equivalent to saying a husband can starve his wife if she refuses to have sex, Kharokhel said... (link)
The revelations seem to have been first mentioned on July 9 by the Telegraph's Ben Farmer, who notes the HRW criticism and quotes an Afghan activist: "The main problem is that the marital rape article is still there." The Independent's correspondent Jerome Starkey ('Law will let Afghan husbands starve wives who withhold sex,' July 10) writes that the law's amendments "were passed to the cabinet this week and signed by Mr Karzai," and that the law "still includes clauses which allow rapists to marry their victims as a way of absolving their crime and it tacitly approves child marriage."

How did the Canadian media report these revelations, you ask? In short, they have not reported them. The Toronto Star's first notice (July 10) does not include the harsh criticisms, coming as it does from an earlier Vogt dispatch which did not note them. By then, Ben Farmer's report noting the ugly reality was already a day old. The Star's follow-up editorial several days later ('Afghanistan and rape,' July 13) again makes no reference to the continued injustices inherent in the law. The Globe and Mail ran the July 10 Vogt piece three days later -- well after Farmer and Starkey had publicized the HRW criticisms. Thus the Globe manages also to ignore the revelations, which were by then four days old, leaving the impression that the law is now hunky dory.

And yet there is some interesting background reported in a June 30 Canadian Press dispatch:
Canadians failed to ring alarm bells on Afghan 'rape law'

OTTAWA, June 30 (CP) – Canadian diplomats were tipped weeks before Afghanistan passed its so-called rape law but didn't alert their political masters, documents indicate.

Officials at the embassy in Kabul were warned Feb. 15 that other countries were worried about the proposed Shiite family law...

The summary also shows that officials with the Canadian International Development Agency, which has been mentoring Afghans in human rights and democracy, knew as far back as last October that the law was being drafted but were unaware of its wording. (link)
The story was carried in the Toronto Star (June 30, p. 10), the Prince George Citizen (June 30, p. 5) and the Saint John Telegraph-Journal (June 30, p. 5; July 1, p. 8), where the article notes: "In the aftermath of the controversy, Ottawa deployed a legal team to Kabul to help the Afghans vet legislation."

So after a Canadian legal team helped to vet the rape law, the law as signed by Karzai -- which still legalizes rape and still allows for abuse of women -- is happily revealed by the Canadian press to be a step in the right direction, thanks to some careful avoidance.

1 comment:

Matthew Tripp said...
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