May 21, 2013 — Conservative lawmakers in Afghanistan on Saturday blocked a measure aimed at expanding women's rights and strengthening laws against rape, abuse and forced marriage, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.
The legislation would have made permanent a presidential decree that criminalized child marriage, forced marriage and domestic violence. It also banned a traditional practice known as "baad" -- the exchange of girls and women to settle disputes -- and specified that rape survivors should not face criminal charges, such as fornication or adultery.
Although the presidential decree was issued in 2009, the Afghan government only filed charges in 7% of related crimes reported during the first full year the law was in effect, according to a United Nations analysis.
Afghan lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women's rights advocate, brought the measure to the parliament over concerns that a future president could reverse the law.
The parliament decided to send the measure to committee, but it could be brought up again later this year, Kofi said. Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said bringing the measure before parliament might have "opened a Pandora's box" by fueling opponents' desire to amend or repeal the law.
Several Afghan lawmakers opposed the legislation because they said the measure conflicts with Islamic principles. Lawmaker Mandavi Abdul Rahmani said, "Adultery itself is a crime in Islam, whether it is by force or not." He also said a man should be able to physically beat his wife if she is disobedient under Islamic law.
Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, another lawmaker, suggested that removing charges against rape survivors would lead to women engaging in extramarital affairs and claiming they were raped if caught.
Some of the country's 60 female lawmakers were among the members who voted to block the measure, according to Kofi (Johnson, AP/U-T San Diego, 5/18).