Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Angry Afghan Shiites Swarm Women's Protest

Afghan Women's Rights were brought into the spotlight recently by a very small and brave group of Afghan Women.
Women protesters against 'marital rape' law
Kabul (AP) - A group of some 1,000 Afghans swarmed a demonstration of 300 women protesting against a new conservative marriage law on Wednesday. The women were pelted with small stones as police struggled to keep the two groups apart.

The law, passed last month, says a husband can demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill or would be harmed by intercourse -- a clause that critics say legalizes marital rape. It also regulates when and for what reasons a wife may leave her home alone.

Women's rights activists scheduled a protest Wednesday attended by mostly young women. But the group was swamped by counter-protesters -- both men and women -- who shouted down the women's chants.

It seems men and women of Afghanistan once again wish to use their cultural beliefs, and call them part of the muslim religion. The strange part? The women were protesting a new law, applying only to Shiites, that obliges women to sleep with their husbands on demand and bars them from leaving the home without their husbands’ permission. Only Shiites?

According to the New York Times:

The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men. “Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!” The women scattered as the men moved in. “We want our rights!” one of the women shouted, turning to face them. “We want equality!” The women ran to the bus and dove inside as it rumbled away, with the men smashing the taillights and banging on the sides.

Three Cheers for these Afghan women and their families that support them! This is hardly a faith issue, but more of an oppression issue. Men seem so threatened by this, and if any of those women are harmed......they will be heros!

Unfortunately, I’m afraid Zara is wrong: She’s not in the majority, at least in Afghanistan. Polls show that men and women alike in Afghanistan mostly don’t believe in equal rights. Women are a bit more likely to support gender equality than men, but only a bit more. The best predictor of whether someone favors women’s rights in Afghanistan isn’t whether the person is a man or woman, but whether the person lives in the city or the countryside. People in the cities are far more sympathetic to equal rights — in other words, it’s a sign of Kabul’s progress that the demonstration happened at all. It would never have been imaginable in, say, rural Zabul or Kandahar provinces, not least because the women would never have been allowed out of their homes.

I’m enormously impressed by the courage of these women, but I do worry about a backlash. Afghans are very nationalistic, and the women today were denounced as pawns of Christians and foreigners. Remember that during the first Gulf War in 1991, Saudi women held a demonstration to demand the right to drive, and the protest attracted enormous attention. Yet in the end it so antagonized and frightened men that it probably set back and delayed the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. I hope that’s not the case here, because Afghanistan can’t develop economically and achieve stability so long as girls are kept home and women are mostly barred from the work force.

The start of these Women's Protests will be the only way to give women of this area some basic human rights. Its the men and the culture that wish to strip them of this, and those women are being cheered on all across the globe!

Angry Afghan Shiites Swarm Women's Protest as the rest of the world CHEER THEM ON!

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