The new law approved by the Afghan government against women last month is outrageous. I find it humiliating to think how a woman’s sexuality and her most private life is being exploited by some reactionary movement and has become codified as the law of a country. According to the new law, a woman (correction, a Shia woman!) has to submit to her husband’s sexual demands at least once every four days. Not that there is anything new in this law; on the contrary a woman’s total sexual submission is one of the fundamentals of Islamic teaching. A married woman has to accept that by marrying a man she has agreed to provide sexual services when and where her husband desires it. The Koran specifically states that women are fields to be entered by men whenever he wishes. Moreover, several Hadith or religious sayings of Mohammad, the prophet, speak of how women are supposed to be ready for their husbands even if they are riding on the back of a camel.
What is most outrageous though is that this regressive teaching has become legally binding, with the new law actually legalising the traditional subordination of women. This is not just another religious requirement which people can choose to follow or forget; this is a law and any woman refusing to follow it can easily be prosecuted. Even worse in my view is that the political Islamic movement has come out victorious yet again with the imposition of this latest law. The lives of women living under Sharia laws have never been easy; discrimination and sexual apartheid are part and parcel of any Islamic state or wherever the Islamic movement is powerful. But this law just goes one step further in legitimising the existing inhuman condition of women.
And Afghanistan is not the only country. Sharia law is now the law of the land in northwest Pakistan and on 19 April this year the Somali parliament endorsed the introduction of Sharia law in the country. In Iran women have been surviving and resisting sexual apartheid for more than 30 years and the rise of political Islam in Iraq means that no woman is safe to walk out of her house without a male chaperon or unveiled any longer. In Saudi Arabia a senior judge has recently decided that the ‘marriage’ of an 8 year old girl to a man 50 years her senior is legal but that he can have intercourse with her when she is a bit older!
And where is the international community when all these horrific, inhumane conditions are imposed on women by political Islam? I am afraid their record is not very impressive. The majority of western governments, with the US in the lead, are too busy finding some compromise with so called ‘moderate’ elements of Islam. There was some half hearted criticism against Karzai for passing the new law in Afghanistan. Other than that they have continued to turn a blind eye against what is happening to women under Sharia law.
Fortunately, these regressive laws have been opposed by majority of people who value secularism, freedom and universal women’s rights and don’t want to see religious and inhuman laws advance in the 21st century. Following the passing of the new law by the Afghan parliament, some 200 women took to the streets in Kabul to protest against it and in other countries, including Germany, women and men took to the streets to show their opposition to these laws.
There is also a new Coalition for Women’s Rights being launched in order to organise the international struggle against the imposition of Sharia laws and to mobilise all those who oppose these laws under one powerful front.
This international opposition and a strong, unified movement is what we need to stop this most regressive movement from conquering more battlefields. We have to stop them now.