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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/25/09

On the Backs of Women: The Politics of Betrayal

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Message Elayne Clift
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From Afghanistan to America, to take two current examples, it's the same: When the chips are down, it's always women who get thrown under the bus.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai talks a good game, but what is happening to women there? For starters, his wife is sequestered, unable to leave home alone. Women exercising the least bit of autonomy or working within the confines of current law, have been kidnapped, tortured, and threatened with death. As one woman said, "I work every day hoping to return at the end of the day to my child and my husband." Yet, as Ann Jones reported recently in The Nation, "As for some hypothetical moral duty to protect the women of Afghanistan, that's off the table."

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In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, heralded as finally bringing women into post-conflict resolution and reconstruction. In 2002, Mr. Karzai proudly proclaimed, "We are determined to improve the lot of women after all their suffering under the narrow-minded and oppressive rule of the Taliban." In 2004, Afghanistan's new constitution declared, "The citizens of Afghanistan — whether man or woman — have equal rights and duties before the law." But an Afghan chief justice of the Supreme Court told Ann Jones that men have a right to work while women have a right to obey their husbands. Sharia law still trumps the constitution.

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Afghanistan's Shite Personal Status Law, dubbed the Marital Rape Law, legalizes withholding food from a woman who fails to have sex with her husband at least twice a week. It denies women's right to inherit, divorce, or have guardianship over her children. It forbids women to marry without permission, and legalizes forced marriage, including marriage to and rape of minors. There's more, but you get the picture. And according to Ms. Jones, "no American official has said a word."

There wasn't much word either when Sitara Achakzai, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council, was killed in April, or when Malalai Kakar, the highest ranking female police officer in Kandahar was murdered in September. So far, 31-year old Malalai Joya, called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" and the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament (later expelled), is still alive. "Women's situation is like hell," she said recently during a speech at Brown University.

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Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
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