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Afghanistan rape laws a step backward for women

In a world in which so much is happening — wars are being fought on so many fronts, new means of technology are helping us to process information at speeds never before imaginable, languages and cultures are growing — there is no room for humanity to step backward. But a new bill in Afghanistan is slated to do just that.

The bill — intended to give the minority Shia community their own identity, in a land largely populated by Sunni Muslims — brings with it several key facets that not only reduce the rights of a woman relative to her male family members, but seriously mar Afghanistan’s international reputation with regard to the human rights of its people.

The most recent draft of the bill includes tenets that prohibit women from leaving their homes without permission from a male relative, and that prohibit them from stopping their husbands from forcing sexual intercourse upon them.

We’re happy that President Obama has spoken out against the bill, as have several significant international human rights organizations. While the new President’s foreign affairs agenda is quickly becoming filled, it is commendable that he has acknowledged the imminent need to dismiss such an unfathomable abomination to the progression of human rights.

The United States and Afghanistan may be extremely physically and culturally disparate, but basic human rights are universal. Rape should never be allowed under law.

Since the removal of the Taliban regime from Afghanistan in 2001, some progress has been made for women’s rights in the country. Called “the victims of political games” by the prominent female Afghan parliamentarian, Fawzia Koofi, women in Afghanistan have been subjected to many levels of physical confinement and sequestering throughout the country’s history, and it is imperative that this new bill does not allow the country to take steps backward at this crucial time in history.

Allowing rape under law, or even just the necessity for male permission to leave the house, does not respect the equality of women and men, and would certainly be the step backward that cannot be allowed.

This new bill far from represents the global information system or the transfer of technology and knowledge that we know to be possible — and that Afghanistan must quickly join in to avoid being left behind in the race toward the globalized future. While not every country can — or even should — be like the United States or some Western European nations, there are humanistic standards that must be acknowledged and followed.