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Senate Committee Passes Resolution on Women in Afghanistan

On May 6, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved, by voice vote, S. Con. Res. 19, a resolution sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), that condemns Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Personal Status Law. Among other provisions, the resolution finds that the law “legalizes marital rape by mandating that a wife cannot refuse sex [with] her husband unless she is ill [and]…also weakens mothers’ rights in the event of a divorce, and prohibits a woman from leaving her home unless her husband determines it is for a ‘legitimate purpose.’”

During debate on the measure, the committee adopted, also by voice vote, a substitute amendment by Sen. Boxer. The substitute amendment urges the government of Afghanistan to amend the Shi’ite Personal Status Law to make it consistent with international laws, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Afghanistan is a signatory.   

In a press release, Sen. Boxer said, “This law is abhorrent and it should never have been signed by President Karzai. The women of Afghanistan deserve leaders who will speak out for them and unequivocally reject attacks on their rights and freedoms. These women deserve nothing less than their full rights enshrined in international law.”

The same release quoted Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): “Afghanistan’s full potential as a nation will be fully realized when the women of Afghanistan are freed from their ‘sentence of silence.’ This resolution sends a strong message to the women of Afghanistan that the United States is committed to paving the way for a new generation of Afghani women, actively participating and contributing to all aspects of rebuilding their society.”

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