Kabul conference to examine women’s rights in family law in four Muslim countries

AfghanistanMONTREAL – Apr. 2, 2009 – Afghanistan’s controversial Shiite Personal Status law will be among the topics discussed at an international conference organized by Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) in Kabul on Monday,  April 6. The conference will focus on efforts in Muslim countries to reform family law according to a progressive interpretation of the Sharia in line with international commitments to protect the rights of women.

The conference will include presentations by leading women’s rights advocates from Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan: Noura Mourat, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia; Ashraf Gerami Zadehgan, Iranian women’s rights advocate and legal expert; and Ms. Shahnaaz Iqbal, women’s rights advocate from Pakistan. Remy M. Beauregard, Rights & Democracy’s President, will deliver the opening address.

News this week that Afghanistan’s Parliament has adopted a new law that drastically limits the rights of Shia women in marriage underscores the pressing need for this discussion. Respect for women’s rights in domestic life is an essential step toward the full and equal participation of Afghan women in their country’s democratic development. Reforming Afghan family law to reflect the constitutionally-recognized rights of women is thus a high priority for many Afghans. The conference aims to share lessons learned from the experience of working on Shiite Personal Status Law and explore similar efforts to protect the rights of Muslim women through the reform of family law in Pakistan, Iran, and Malaysia.

The yearly public event is Rights & Democracy’s second in the Afghan capital on the topic of family law reform and women’s rights in Muslim Countries. The conference is an important element of Rights & Democracy’s Rights in Practice: A Measure of Equality for Afghan Women project started in April 2007. This four year project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provides support for Afghan civil society in its efforts to establish a new and equitable family law and promote a national marriage contract that respects the rights of women. It is being implemented in the 6 provinces of Kabul, Kandahar Balk, Herat, Kunduz and Nangarhar by the all-Afghan staff of Rights & Democracy’s Kabul office.

For media accreditation to the conference or for more information, please contact:

Kabul: Montreal:

Alexandra Gilbert
Project Coordinator 
Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
Rights & Democracy 
011-93-798-143-094

Steve Smith
External Relations Officer
Rights & Democracy
514-898-4157
  Olivier Bourque
External Relations Officer
Rights & Democracy
514-267-8375