The rights and legal protection of women in Afghanistan are in jeopardy. Since July 2013, four female police officers have been killed; in addition, there have been multiple assassination and kidnapping attacks against female members of parliament. Recent allegations that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been fraternizing with the Taliban, a fundamentalist group that does not believe women should be allowed outside of the home; the knowledge that various candidates for the upcoming April presidential election share this view does not help allay fears.

A hopeful turn of events came on February 17, when Karzai demanded that a proposed law return to the ministry of justice to be amended. The law would have essentially muted claims of domestic violence and forced or child marriages by barring judicial authorities from questioning the defendant’s relatives. While the law had already passed in both houses of parliament, international campaigns for women’s rights highly criticized the legislation as a “major setback for women’s rights.”

Whether or not the amendment will fully mend the issue at hand is questionable. Hamid Karzai’s spokeswoman, Adela Raz, has not specified the alterations being discussed for the law, and Heather Barr of Human Rights Watched asserted that the law possesses two large problems; however, the government is only fixing one so far. The fact that changes are being considered, however, is reason enough for some to feel optimistic.

According to a December 2013 United Nations report, violence against women increased by 28 percent. The original format of the law, in accordance with fundamentalist beliefs, signaled to some a return of the Taliban to power. This contemplation of a major flip in criminal law shows that advocacy is not dead. Activists and diplomats, both domestically in Afghanistan and internationally, launched a dynamic campaign against the legislation as soon as its details were made public.

Some may claim that Karzai was slow to act on behalf of those opposing the law. But in the face of sluggish bureaucratic formalities and pressure from the Taliban, Karzai did not fail to act. There is hope yet for women’s rights in Afghanistan, and all over the world.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, The Guardian
Photo: New York Times