Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Two different worlds

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Greens Senator Bob Brown clearly see the world through different lenses. In the House of Representatives yesterday Mr Smith made a ministerial statement on Afghanistan in which he spoke of Australia’s belief that the country deserved a future in which its people can live in peace and security, with better health services and better educational opportunities for Afghan girls and boys.

Progress is being made,” he said.

The Afghanistan of today is far removed from Afghanistan under Taliban rule. School enrolment has jumped sixfold. Thirty-five per cent of children at school are girls. Only eight years ago all girls were banned from school under Taliban rule. Under-five mortality has dropped 25 per cent.

With international support, Afghanistan has held presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections. Twenty-seven per cent of seats in Afghanistan’s parliament are held by women. Australian assistance is contributing to these results.”

In the Senate Greens Leader Brown must have been speaking of a different country. In his Afghanistan:

I want to take this opportunity to express the deep dismay that the Greens have with the recent promulgation of laws to do with women’s rights by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. We have our defence forces, good and true, in Afghanistan to bring a measure of democracy and human rights to the people of that country, who have been through decades —  indeed, centuries — of turmoil. When one reads of President Karzai’s recent proclamation on the rights of women, one has to question the cause in which we put at risk the lives and wellbeing of our defence forces.

Having been internationally criticised for a move to invoke repressive laws on women in Afghanistan earlier this year, it turns out that just a couple of weeks ago President Karzai used a constitutional loophole, according to the Guardiannewspaper from the United Kingdom, to enact a law that allows minority Shiite Muslim husbands to refuse food and money to their wives if they deny them s-x.

The law also prohibits a woman leaving a house without her husband’s permission and it also automatically gives guardianship, or control, of children to the husband and/or to the grandfather in any dispute between a husband and wife.

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