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Afghanistan MPs to debate law on women's rights

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  • Chris King
    18 May 2013 Last updated at 03:18 GMT Afghanistan MPs to debate law on women s rights Related Stories Women failed by Afghan justice Arrests for Afghan girl
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2013
      18 May 2013 Last updated at 03:18 GMT

      Afghanistan MPs to debate law on women's rights

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      Afghan MPs are to debate a law to prevent violence against women, amid a fierce argument between leading Afghan women over tactics.

      A law banning violence against women, child marriages and forced marriages was passed by presidential decree in 2009, but did not gain MPs' approval.

      Some want the law set in concrete through a parliamentary vote, fearing it could be repealed in the future.

      But other rights activists fear the debate may weaken current legislation.

      Last time the issue of violence against women was raised in the Afghan parliament, a fight broke out as fundamentalists tried to block the discussion of reforms.

      Hard-won progress

      Hundreds of people have been jailed under the current law, introduced by President Hamid Karzai in 2009.

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      There is lack of assurance any president will have any commitment to women's issues”

      Fawzia Koofi Afghan MP

      However, leading MP Fawzia Koofi - who survived a Taliban ambush two years ago - wants it enshrined with parliamentary approval, worrying that otherwise it could be weakened as Afghanistan looks to pacify the Islamist Taliban movement.

      "There is a lack of assurance that any president of Afghanistan will have any commitment to women's issues and in particular towards this decree," Ms Koofi told the BBC.

      But a number of prominent women's rights activists believe that putting the law to parliament risks losing what they have gained, says the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul, as conservative fundamentalists could amend it to weaken protection for women - or even throw it out altogether.

      Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission member Soraya Sobjang said: "Don't play with this law because this is an achievement. This is human rights value, and this belongs to all people of Afghanistan."

      Changing entrenched attitudes in Afghan villages over rights for women will take a long time, says our correspondent.

      The issue raises strong passions in the country, he adds, and this debate could either endanger hard-won progress or - if the risk pays off - make that progress irreversible.

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