In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, elite and mainstream opinion in the United States often sought to justify the war as being not only aimed at lessening the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States, but also as a way of overthrowing the brutal regime hostile to women’s rights. Proponents of the invasion said that an underlying goal was to “liberate” the women of Afghanistan.
Former First Lady Laura Bush described the policy, stating:
“Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet the terrorists who helped rule that country now plot and plan in many countries. And they must be stopped. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”
Numerous writers have critiqued this rationale, pointing out that the United States was silent to years of abuses before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and showing that progress has been slow.
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has been highly critical of this rationale, stating:
“After the US and allies invaded Afghanistan around seven years ago, they misleadingly claimed of bringing peace and democracy and liberating Afghan women from the bleeding fetters of the Taliban. But in reality Afghan women are still burning voraciously in the inferno of fundamentalism. Women are exchanged with dogs, girls are gang-raped, men in the Jehadi-dominated society kill their wives viciously and violently, burn them by throwing hot water, cut off their nose and toes, innocent women are stoned to death and other heinous crimes are being committed.”
There have been relatively few gains for women and many of the abuses that took place under the Taliban are continuing to this day.
New Law Legalizes Rape in Marriage
Now, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai–who’s administration depends on U.S. support for its survival–has signed a law that legalizes rape within marriage and bans wives from leaving their homes without their husbands permission.
The law has not yet been published, but according to media reports the law:
“…the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.
A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.”
So, this is women’s liberation?