Rollback of Women’s Rights: Not Just in Afghanistan

National Geographic Daily News: by Eve Conant — 

An Afghan law that protects perpetrators of domestic violence, new sharia criminal laws in Brunei that allow stoning, sexual assaults in Arab Spring countries, and proposed “virginity tests” in Indonesia.

These are just a few examples of a rollback of women’s rights in recent years, even where revolutions and political transitions have been hailed in the West.

Soon after it arrived on his desk, President Hamid Karzai sent Afghanistan’s controversial new domestic violence law back to parliament, demanding changes.

But the law, which its detractors say makes it nearly impossible to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, remains a threat to women in a society where women’s rights appear to be eroding as Western powers retreat.

“There are two major problems with this law, and the government has shown a willingness to fix only one of those problems,” says Heather Barr, senior researcher for Afghanistan at Human Rights Watch, which investigates human rights abuses worldwide.

It’s still unclear what the government might do to amend the law, but Barr points to two particular areas of concern.

Bright Spots

Historic gains in women’s rights have been made in some countries, such as Kenya, Mexico, and Tunisia—the birthplace of the Arab Spring—with new rights for women enshrined in their constitutions. Tunisia has been hailed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as “a model for others in the region and around the world.”


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