Afghan marital law under review
KABUL - A new law that critics say legalizes marital rape will face a thorough review, the president's spokesman said yesterday, and a State Department spokesman said the United States was glad to hear it.
The law, quietly passed and signed last month, has stirred international outcry over women's rights. The law says 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 Shi'ite population, between 10 percent and 20 percent of Afghanistan's 30 million people.
"Women have had an unfortunate and a very sad history in Afghanistan," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters in Washington. "This type of a law shouldn't have been enacted without regard to changing some of these provisions that send a very negative signal to the international community about where Afghanistan is going."
Critics have said the legislation undermines hard-won rights for women enacted after the fall of the Taliban's strict Islamist regime in 2001. The regime banned women from appearing in public without a body-covering burqa and a male escort from her family.
Wood said the United States was "glad" that President Hamid Karzai has agreed to review the law.
Karzai's spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said the president has consulted with Afghanistan's leading clerics and his Cabinet over the law, and that it has been sent to the Ministry of Justice for review.