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Karzai 'Rape Law' Draws International Fire

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The Afghan law signed by President Karzai last month -- that essentially legalizes the rape of Shia women within marriage -- is drawing wide criticism from governments around the world who have contributed troops to the fight against the Taliban. One such example is Canada, who is describing the Afghan law as "unacceptable." According to the Canadian Press:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said he will use this week's NATO summit to put "direct" pressure on his Afghan counterparts to abandon the legislation.

"That's unacceptable -- period," he said Wednesday. "We're fighting for values that include equality and women's rights. This sort of legislation won't fly."

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Canada has lost 116 soldiers and spent up to $10-billion fighting to support the Karzai government.

Canadian officials have contacted Mr. Karzai's office and also raised their concerns with senior Afghan cabinet ministers. They say it's not yet clear what's in the law, but they're trying to find out.

As the Canada Press notes, the full details of the law remain unrevealed, and Karzai has yet to make any public statement on the matter. However, the issue has caused a stir in Afghanistan. From the BBC:

Defenders of the law say it is an improvement on the customary laws which normally decide family matters. But critics like Member of Parliament Fawzia Koofi have accused the president of playing for votes.

"We have elections coming up in the summer and President Karzai's dependency on these fundamentalist groups is growing - and also he wants to have the support of the extremist Shia groups."

A separate family law for the Sunni majority is now also being drawn up. Activists fear that this too might be used to roll back Afghan women's hard-won freedoms.