Afghan Shiite men permitted to starve wives who do not consent to sex

Like the Flea says, Canadian soldiers should not be fighting and dying for this.

Bowing to international pressure and unprecedented protests by hundreds of women on the streets of Kabul, the Afghan government promised in April to review a new law imposing severe restrictions on women in Shiite Muslim families.

Last week, though, Human Rights Watch discovered that a revised version of the Shiite Personal Status Law had been quietly put into effect at the end of July — meaning that Shiite men in Afghanistan now have the legal right to starve their wives if their sexual demands are not met and that Shiite women must obtain permission from their husbands to even leave their houses, “except in extreme circumstances.”

The new law was signed by President Hamid Karzai, who is depending on support from Sheik Muhammad Asif Mohseni, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric, in this week’s presidential election.

— Mackey, Robert.  “Afghan Husbands Win Right to Starve Wives“, The Lede—New York Times Blog, 17 August 2009.

Bringing democracy to a country is quite different from bringing it into compliance with 21st century Western cultural norms.  Our ability to turn Afghanistan around depends entirely on our ability to transmit Enlightenment values; a secular public sphere, free enquiry, individual autonomy, private property, equality under law, and, above all, liberty.

Subtract any one of these and moribund 7th century autocracy will slowly but surely reassert itself.

It is fine and good to have boots on the ground and protecting hamlets from domination by their former Taliban masters, but who is drawing the “This is why Afghanistan was such a stagnant armpit before, so this is what we need to do differently today” flowcharts for current and future Afghan legislators?

The idea that we should let the Afghans sort it out for themselves over the course of decades or centuries seems profoundly misguided.  Think of all the women who will be born, starved and raped under that long, slow march toward a gentler future.  We wouldn’t have permitted Germans to go on slaughtering Jews, or Japanese to go on raping Korean and Chinese women, under the notion that undoing nazification and bushido cult militarism would take generations.  We sped up the process a little.

The West is stalemated in this war not because it lacks manpower or matériel, but because it has ignored the critical mission of propagating its core philosophy.  But then I suppose it can’t very well propagate something it no longer believes in.

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One Response
  1. Nathan B. says:

    I completely agree with you, and I admire your concluding paragraph particularly. It is indeed shameful that our soldiers’ presence in the country is being used to support this particular Afghan administration when it puts this forward as a bill.