Afghan Women’s Political Power Revoked

Women’s rights in Afghanistan take yet another hit, as conservative male parliamentarians secretly remove a legal requirement that states women make up at least a quarter of all provincial elections.

Afghan women's rights gathering

Photo by 24peacescholars.net

According to Reuters, the change took place in mid-May but was only discovered by women parliamentarians a few days ago.

Activists said it could also reduce the number of women serving in parliament’s upper house, as most women are elected there via their role as elected provincial officials.

“In negotiations you don’t gain anything unless you also give something up,” said prominent women’s rights activist and MP Farkhunda Naderi.

The action has sparked fears among women’s rights activists that President Hamid Karzai’s government is increasingly willing to trade away their hard fought gains to placate the Taliban as part of attempts to coax them to the peace table.

Women entered Afghanistan’s male-only political arena in 2001 soon after the overthrow of the Taliban regime by a U.S. led invasion.

At least a quarter of the seats in some 400 districts and 34 provincial councils had been set aside for women.

Karzai appointed 17 out of 28 women in the upper house, the remaining 11 must be chosen from among women sitting on district and provincial councils, but those positions are now under a cloud.

On May 22, the change was approved by parliament’s lower house, the Wolesi Jirga.

“(They) removed it without informing us. We trusted that the law we signed off on was the same as previous drafts,” said parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.

The law still needs approval from the upper house and Karzai before being passed into law.

Critics of the change told Reuters its removal will not only affect women’s ability to serve in the upper house, but also do away with more than 100 seats in local government bodies nationwide that were previously guaranteed to women.

“Women are not in the position to win votes in this country based on popular vote alone, this amendment is worrisome  they’ll lose their voice,” said Noor Mohammad, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

Conservative male parliamentarians backing the change said the concept of granting rights based on their gender was unconstitutional.

“It’s undemocratic to grant a seat to a woman even though a man had more votes, simply because the law favors her,” said Qazi Nasir Ahmad Hanafi, head of the legislative commission.

This story was originally published by Reuters.

(Edited by Gillian Felix)

14 thoughts on “Afghan Women’s Political Power Revoked

  1. Augusto (Gus) Venegas • A negative development for women’s rights! My mathematical mind tells me that foreign aid should be directly proportional to human rights development. Via LinkedIn

  2. They didn’t even wait for us to leave before beginning the dismantling of women’s rights. One of the selling points for staying in Afghanistan was the liberation of women from the tryanny of the Taliban. I believe the only opportunity for women in Muslim countries is to leave them and live in Western democracies. The mysogyny is just to deeply ingrained. Comment via LinkedIN

  3. The worst country for women to live at are Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Huffington Post used the following four key factors for their rankings: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment (for more information, see Huffington Post link at http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/global-gender-gap-report-2012-best-worst-countries-women_n_2006395.html&sa=U&ei=8WnKUaKiMK640gH284FI&ved=0CBgQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNFbrbRsOES7hoT0OW7qcTB0qYgE2A )
    By Augusto (Gus) Venegas via LinkedIn

  4. In My Humble Opinion The title of the thread is misleading..should reconsider using another word other than “conservative”

    Americans who are conservative (both male and female) do NOT condone the mistreatment of females here, despite what the D-minus “Democratic” pundits claim.

    The operative word should be misogynistic at best (being slightly kind) when referencing seventh-century byzantine mentalities of some “males”. Comment via LinkedIn

  5. Gus and Todd,
    exactly right, my LI friends. ANY/ALL “foreign aid” given should be always conditional on human rights.

    There should be NO MORE US financing of foreign enemies/ enemy states or regimes -PERIOD. Should be considered both treason and economic terrorism/acts of war against the taxPAYING US Citizens.

    Anyone in the US Govt involved in dispensing $aid to enemy regimes should be charged with above crimes. Comment via LinkedIn

  6. Too right. Most of these daft ideas originate in the Koran/Qur’an. I have spent the last few years rewriting the scriptures of virtually all the world’s religions to remove the misogyny and other irrationalities, and at the core all still have something useful to say about the human condition, apart from the Koran. But the Koran is primarily a book of the law, and a 1400 year old one at that, so why on earth should we still be taking any notice of it? Via LinkedIn

  7. I mentioned in an earlier post that the worst countries for women to live at are Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the best countries for women to live at were: 1. Iceland, 2. Finland, 3. Norway, 4. Sweden, and 5. Ireland. The Huffington Post used the following four key factors for their rankings: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment (for more information, see Huffington Post link at http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/global-gender-gap-report-2012-best-worst-countries-women_n_2006395.html&sa=U&ei=8WnKUaKiMK640gH284FI&ved=0CBgQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNFbrbRsOES7hoT0OW7qcTB0qYgE2A )
    By Augusto (Gus) Venegas VIA LinkedIn

  8. I like too John, the Y generation seems to be silent but they are open minded
    By V,B Via LinkedIn

  9. Whilst technically I oppose quotas, I don’t for one second believe the males did it because they believed in equality. Everyone knows in Afghanistan if women’s rights aren’t actively enforced, they will be kept in a servile state. The Afghan men are almost certainly running their own agenda and using an anti-quota argument as a convenient cover. – Via Deviant Art

  10. Thank you for posting this article! I can’t believe this hasn’t made more prominent news… this really goes to show that our exit strategy from Afghanistan has left the country far less than perfect. Obviously this isn’t something that can be changed overnight, but I think women’s rights in this country should be payed attention to just as much as stabilizing their democracy. I guess these things would come hand in hand, however, it’s interesting that we haven’t heard more about this in mainstream media. It is wonderful, though, that there are so many non-profit organizations dedicated to this type of issue, as well as some (effective?) UN initiatives. Hopefully these programs can reverse the effects of this secret change in Afghanistan legalities! VIA LinkedIn

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