Afghan women pelted with stones during rape law protest

Afghan women protesting against a new law that severely undermines women’s rights were pelted with stones in the country’s capital Wednesday, say reports.

About 300 mostly young women gathered in Kabul to show their opposition to a recently passed law that forbids women from refusing to have sex with their husbands and requires them to get a male relative’s permission to leave the house.

The demonstration, organized by women’s rights activists in the country, occurred in front of a Shia mosque recently built by a cleric who helped craft the law. Critics of the law say it effectively legalizes rape within marriage and is a return to Taliban-style rule.

About 1,000 people opposed to the protest surrounded the women and threw gravel and small stones as police struggled to hold them back. The group of counter-protesters included both men and women.

Some shouted “Death to the slaves of the Christians.”

“You are a dog. You are not a Shia woman,” one man shouted to a young woman in a headscarf holding aloft a banner that said, “We don’t want Taliban law.”

There were no reports of injuries.

Sima Ghani, a women’s rights activist, said everyone at the protest is united against the law.

“No matter what religion we belong to, what sect we follow, we all stand against this law and want a reform of the law,” she said.

Jeremy Starkey, a reporter with The Independent newspaper who was at the demonstration, said he saw men pelt the women with stones.

“I saw the men surging forward on a number of occasions,” he said.

“Female afghan police officers joined hands to form a human chain around the women to try to protect them.”

The law, which applies only to the minority Shia community, received widespread international condemnation.

The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said the law will be reviewed and won’t be implemented in its current form.

Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, said earlier this month Afghan officials had assured him they would delete “contentious clauses” from the legislation.

The Afghan constitution guarantees equal rights for women, but also allows the Shia to have separate family law based on religious tradition.

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