International reaction has been slowed by secrecy surrounding the law, which was passed without a formal debate and signed off by President Karzai this week, but is yet to be made law.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, became aware of it only when it was raised by her Finnish counterpart at the Afghanistan conference in The Hague on Wednesday. She is said to have raised the issue with him but without the full text President Karzai was spared her opprobrium. (opprobrium??: public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious)
Mike Gapes, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, called the law deplorable. “We did not go into Afghanistan to remove the Taleban only to have Taleban-style policies reimplemented by the Government,” he said. “But this raises big question marks about the nature of the Afghan Government.”
The Afghan Government refused to comment until Saturday, which is after the Nato summit. Speaking yesterday both Mrs Clinton and General James Jones, Mr Obama’s national security adviser, denied that they had given up on getting more Nato soldiers for the fight against a Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan.
The legislation is based on the Shia family code first brought before Parliament two years ago, to the horror of women legislators who make up more than a quarter of the assembly.
Under the same constitution, each religious group is to have its own family law. Opponents said that it contravenes the founding charter in many ways — not least Article 22, which enshrines equality of the sexes before the law.
Afghan culture is conservative, with tribal custom mingling with religious law to produce one of the most oppressive social atmospheres for women anywhere in the world.
Women’s rights are a continuous source of tension between the country’s conservative establishment and more liberal members of society, with hardliners viewing them as a social toxin forced on them by Western backers.
The US warned that the law shows how human rights, and not just women’s rights, had worsened in Afghanistan.