Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fighting for Equality: 300 Afghan Women Lead Protest

Last week, I posted about a new law in Afghanistan that severely restricts the rights of Shia women, stripping them of the ability to ever say no to sexual intimacy with their husbands. The law also required women to obtain permission from a male relative to work, to attend school, or to simply leave the home at all. Finally, the law compels women to put on make-up or dress up at the whim of their husbands.

Here's a brief update on this unfolding story.

On April 15th, The New York Times reported on a demonstration led by 300 Afghan women, protesting this law:

"About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

With the Afghan police keeping the mob at bay, the women walked two miles to Parliament, where they delivered a petition calling for the law’s repeal."

I applaud the bravery of these women. Risking personal safety and humiliation, they chose to fight for equality for themselves and future generations. They have the international community behind them and President Karzai is reviewing the law, whose fine print he apparently neglected to read.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Meed

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