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Letter to His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan


Location: Rancho Mirage, CA

Boxer, Women Senators Call on Karzai to Reverse Marital Rape Law

Today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and colleagues Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called on President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to reverse a law that would legalize marital rape and limit a woman's ability to leave her home.

Under the law, passed last month by the Afghan Parliament, a Shiite woman would only be allowed to leave home for a "legitimate purpose" as defined by her husband. The law also says, "Unless the wife is ill, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of the husband," a provision that human rights groups say legalizes marital rape.

"This law should be reversed immediately," Boxer said. "Not only is this law an attack on individual freedom, but it condones despicable acts against women in their homes. By approving this law, Afghan leaders are holding back the entire country's progress and turning the nation back toward some of the most oppressive practices of the Taliban."

Senator Boxer is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues, which is the first Senate subcommittee in history to focus on the status of women worldwide.

The text of the letter follows:

His Excellency Hamid Karzai,
President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Dear President Karzai:

We write to express our profound disappointment over the Afghan Parliament's recent passage of a law that, if implemented, would deal a significant blow to the rights of women in Afghanistan. This law is not only an affront to the women of Afghanistan, but also to the many nations that have sacrificed both lives and treasure to bring stability and security to Afghanistan after years of brutal repression by the Taliban.

As we understand it, this law would essentially legalize the rape of a wife by her husband. It would also give men jurisdiction over when and if their wives may leave their homes, and forbids women from working or seeking education without the express permission of their husbands. We strongly agree with President Barack Obama's characterization of this law as "abhorrent" and his statement that "respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle" that all nations should uphold.

As such, we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reject the implementation of this law and work toward the passage of measures that will improve the rights, protections and freedoms afforded to the women of Afghanistan. In this century, no nation can move ahead if half its citizens are left behind or treated as though their worth is less than that of their male counterparts.

Thank you for your consideration of this most important request.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Olympia Snowe
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Lisa Murkowski
United States Senator

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