Monday, May 21, 2007

Female Afghan MP Expelled From Parliament

Peter Mackay in a National Post interview on Saturday:

A: What ever form of democracy they have -- and it comes in many packages and permutations -- the Afghan people are not going to go back to what they had. Women feel more empowered, I dare say, than they ever have in the history of that country. I met female members of parliament -- five years ago they couldn't vote, now they're sitting in a democratically elected institution where they have decision- making power.

Tuesday's Independent:

The most outspoken female MP in Afghanistan has been expelled from parliament after saying proceedings had descended to a level "worse than a zoo". The views of Malalai Joya, in a television interview, outraged fellow parliamentarians, who immediately voted to suspend her from the house for the rest of her five-year term. Some even demanded that she should be brought before a court for defamation and stripped of the right to stand again as a candidate.

This was not the first time that 28-year-old Ms Joya, a fervent advocate of women's rights, has angered male MPs with her criticisms. Some have thrown water bottles at her while she spoke in debates and others have threatened her with rape. She has also survived assassination attempts and has to regularly change her address after receiving death threats from Islamist groups.

Ms Joya's suspension yesterday came after a tape of her interview with Tolo TV, an independent station which has faced official wrath over some of its investigative reports, was shown to MPs. Describing what was happening in parliament, she had said: "A stable or a zoo is better, at least there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk. This parliament is worse than a stable or a zoo."
Most of Ms Joya's campaigning has been about women's rights, which have been severely eroded after initial gains made with the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Women activists, including the highest-ranking official dealing with female empowerment, Safia Amajan, have been murdered.

Ms Joya said: "Talking about women's rights in Afghanistan is a joke. There really have not been any fundamental changes, the Taliban were driven off by the Americans and the British but then they were allowed to be replaced by warlords who also simply cannot see women as equals."

I should have subtitled this post, Mackay and His Rose-Coloured Glasses.

Wiki profile of Malalai Joya
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
PBS: Afghanistan Unveiled:

Although the new Afghan government includes two women in ministerial posts, the ministers of public health and women’s affairs, only two women were nominated to serve on the country’s first post-Taliban loya jirga, or grand council. In 2003, a coalition of Afghan and Afghan American women drafted an Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights, demanding mandatory education for girls, equal representation in the loya jirga, criminalization of sexual harassment and domestic violence and the right to marry and divorce according to Islamic law. The bill was later presented to President Hamid Karzai, but despite assurance from leaders that it would be included in the constitution, it was not. Even the loya jirga’s conference began with the chairman proclaiming to women: “God has not given you equal rights because under his decision, two women are counted as equal to one man.”

In January 2004, the loya jirga ratified a constitution that included an equal rights clause referencing gender — something not included in the United States' constitution— proclaiming that all Afghan citizens, men and women, "have equal rights and duties before the law." However, this clause is open to interpretation and could be used to undermine women’s rights, as “the law” includes religious law. The Taliban’s treatment of women, for example, would have been permissible following its definition of the law. As many women registered to vote in Afghanistan’s first national presidential election under the new government, the country’s future—and their future—remains unclear.

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