Following the Lead of Women Affected

Alanna Shaikh

To assess a recent Afghan law limiting the rights of Afghan women, we must follow the lead of women in Afghanistan.

I’ve spent several days thinking about Michelle’s question. There are
a lot of things going on here. Obviously, legalized rape is a horror. No one is going to argue otherwise. But these kinds of restrictive laws are going to be a consequence of Hamid Karzai’s negotiation with the Taliban, and the general consensus seems to be that these negotiations are necessary for peace in Afghanistan. Since women are so severely affected by conflict, is there an argument to be made that a horrible law is the price to pay for peace? But to make that argument, you need to know exactly how much this law contributes to peace, and how much damage it causes in comparison to the impact of
conflict. Any calculation like this is inherently flawed, because the
variables are pretty much guesses.

I think, though, that this calculation is not ours to make. It is not
our lives at stake. This is where we follow the lead of women in
Afghanistan. They are living through a war, and they are the ones
facing marital rape. A cursory web search indicates that Afghan
women’s groups are strongly opposed to this law. For example, the
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan has not issued a
statement, but they have reprinted on their website an editorial from
the Guardian which is strongly opposed to the law. Women for Afghan
Women, based in Kabul, has explicitly condemned the law.

It seems to me, then, that the correct role of the US is one of
solidarity and support. We need to condemn, and work against, this law
as firmly and explicitly as Afghan women themselves have.

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