Sunday, April 5, 2009

Obama Responds To Afghan Law That Legalizes Rape

‘I Think This Law Is Abhorrent’

At a news conference in Strasbourg, France, this morning, President Obama discussed NATO efforts in Afghanistan and secured the commitment of NATO allies to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Fox News’ Major Garrett asked Obama what he thinks of a new Afghanistan law that legalizes rape. The legislation, which applies to the country’s Shia population, contains this provision:

“As long as the husband is not traveling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night,” Article 132 of the law says. “Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband.”

In a written statement, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said the law “legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband. … The law violates women’s rights and human rights in numerous ways.”

This morning, Obama said, “I think this law is abhorrent” and that his administration’s views are being communicated to the Karzai government. “We have stated very clearly that we object to this law.” But Obama added, the priority for the U.S. right now is al Qaeda. “But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda and ensure that they do not have safe havens from which they can launch attacks against the Alliance.” Watch it:

The Afghanistan law poses a difficult diplomatic challenge for Obama and for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said recently, “Women’s rights are a central part of American foreign policy in the Obama Administration; they are not marginal; they are not an add-on or an afterthought.”

President Karzai said he ordered his Justice Ministry to review the law, and if anything in it contravenes the country’s constitution or Shariah law, “measures will be taken.” But he added that he had studied the law earlier in the day and, “I don’t see any problems with it.”

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