Karzai backs clerics’ guidelines for women
KABUL | Afghanistan’s president on Tuesday endorsed a “code of conduct” issued by an influential council of clerics that activists say represents a giant step backward for women’s rights in the country.
Hamid Karzai’s endorsement of the Ulema Council’s document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes, is seen as part of his outreach to insurgents like the Taliban.
Both the U.S. and Mr. Karzai hope that the Taliban can be brought into negotiations to end the country’s decadelong war. But activists worry that gains made by women since 2001 may be lost in the process.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the 2001 U.S. invasion, girls were banned from going to school and women had to wear burqas that covered them from head to toe. Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative as an escort.
The “code of conduct” issued Friday by the Ulema Council as part of a longer statement on national political issues is cast as a set of guidelines that religious women should obey voluntarily. Activists are concerned it will herald a reversal of the trend in Afghanistan since 2001 to pass laws aimed at expanding women’s rights.