Afghanistan’s ‘Marital Rape’ Law Under Review

April 7, 2009 - 11:32 AM
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Kabul (AP) - President Hamid Karzai is committed to a thorough review of a controversial new law that critics say legalizes marital rape, his spokesman said Tuesday.
 
Humayun Hamidzada said Karzai has consulted with the country's leading clerics and his Cabinet over the new law that regulates family life inside Afghanistan's Shiite communities, and that the measure has been sent to the Ministry of Justice for review.
 
"The president is committed to upholding our constitution that provides equal rights for men and women, and he's committed to the rights of minorities and all rights and privileges provided in our constitution to our citizens," Hamidzada said.
 
The law, quietly passed and signed last month, has stirred international outcry amid accusations the legislation sets back women's rights. Some of the provisions say that a husband can have sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill, and it regulates when and for what reasons a wife may leave the house by herself.
 
The law would apply only to the country's Shiite population, between 10 percent and 20 percent of Afghanistan's 30 million people. The Justice Ministry has said the law, which has not been published in the official registry, is not being enforced while it is under review.
 
In the latest violence, a Romanian officer was killed in a roadside blast Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, where a day earlier rockets killed a Dutch soldier and wounded five others.
 
The Romanian vehicle patrol was hit by a roadside bomb northeast of Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province, killing the officer and wounding four other troops, the Romanian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
 
In neighboring Uruzgan province Monday, insurgents fired rockets at the Dutch main base, killing a soldier and wounding five others, said Gen. Peter van Uhm, the Dutch defense chief. The base had come under fire by Taliban fighters regularly in the past, but the latest attack was the first to cause causalities.
 
Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban-led insurgency, where thousands of new U.S. troops were ordered to join the fight by President Barack Obama to try to reverse militant gains of the last three years.
 
Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Tuesday his country was considering sending more military trainers in addition to 1,100 troops already in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led efforts to bolster coalition troops.
 
Coalition troops, meanwhile, killed four suspected Taliban militants and detained two others following a raid on a bomb-making cell in Kandahar province Monday, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement.
 
The latest violence comes as the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, said that despite the arrival of 21,000 new U.S. troops this year, it will be years before Afghan forces can be in charge of security.
 
McKiernan also said his troops had increased targeting of drug operations eight- to 10-fold in the past four months, specifically for drug lords or operations that could be tied to insurgents and insurgent funding.
 
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the main ingredient in heroin. The Afghan drug trade accounts for 90 percent of worldwide production. The U.N. estimated last year that up to $500 million from the illegal drug trade flows to Taliban fighters and criminal groups.