Jeremy Page in Kabul | August 18
AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai has approved a law that critics say condones marital rape, opening a rift among the country's international backers as they debate how to respond without disrupting Thursday's presidential election.
The split emerged when donor countries met to discuss the new law after learning it had come into effect last month despite the condemnation of a draft of the legislation by Western leaders, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Canada and several European countries want to make a public protest against the new Shia Personal Status Law, which permits Shia men to refuse to give food to their wives if they do not have sex with them.
But the US and Britain are opposed to any strong public protest because they fear speaking out could disrupt Thursday's election, according to two sources familiar with the donors' meeting.
"There was a disagreement over how to respond," one of the sources said. "The British and Americans were reluctant to speak out."
The controversy exposes the contradictions between Afghanistan's traditional culture and Western efforts to instill democracy and human rights after toppling the Taliban.
And it highlights the tensions within Afghanistan's international supporters between countries that focus on stability and security and those that place a greater emphasis on promoting Western liberal values.
The legislation is meant to govern family law for Afghanistan's Shia Muslims, who make up about 15 per cent of the population of about 30 million. Read more here ...
Source: The Australian