Afghan women attacked at protest

Late last month, the Afghan government passed what is, by all accounts, an atrocious law, legalizing marital rape and explicitly confining women’s mobility.  Even if the law is a bit of a “red herring” for what is in reality a deeper problematic in Afghan society, it’s hard not to see it as a step backward for women’s rights in the country.  This situation also presents the tricky question of how exactly the West can or should exert pressure to oppose the law, particularly when, as Dispatch blog salon participant — and regular Global Health blogger — Alanna Shaikh noted, it was likely enacted with the interest of pursuing the necessary negotiations with the Taliban (even if they don’t appear to be living up to their end of the deal).

Alanna suggested that one possible policy option would be to support Afghan women’s groups, as they would have a better sense of how exactly to oppose this hateful law, even in the context of working with the Taliban.  Which brings me to this heinous occurrence:

A crowd of about 1,000 Afghans swarmed toward a demonstration by 300 women against a conservative new marriage law Wednesday, pelting them with rocks as police struggled to keep the groups apart.

If the law itself is deserving of condemnation, then attacks against those who peacefully protest it are perhaps even more abhorrent.  I don’t think this means that Afghan groups won’t be able to oppose the law effectively, but it certainly underscores their need for support, from their own government and from the international community.

(image of Afghan women praying on International Women’s Day, from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on flickr)