Kabul Women’s rights advocates alleged Monday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has used a constitutional loophole to enact a law that allows minority Shiite Muslim husbands to refuse food and money to their wives if they deny them sex.
The activists suspect Karzai took the step to appease conservative Shiite clergy ahead of Thursday’s presidential election. Nearly 20 percent of Afghans are Shiites and could become an influential voting block as Karzai contests for a new five-year term.
The legislation, which governs many aspects of family life for Afghanistan’s Shiites, has been sparking controversy since Karzai signed an earlier version in March. Critics said the original legislation essentially legalized marital rape and Karzai quickly suspended enforcement after governments around the world condemned it as oppressive and a return to Taliban-era repression of women.