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American Senator, Ambassador Criticize Afghan Marital Law on VOA

Law has drawn international criticism

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2009 - Two prominent American women, in separate interviews with the Voice of America (VOA), criticized the controversial Afghan law governing the marital life of Shiite women, with one saying, this was not right.

In a marriage, there has to be equality, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told VOA's TV Ashna, which today aired a show on the Afghan law. Neither side should dominate the other.

She also praised Afghan women who have demonstrated in Kabul against the law, saying, "They should be applauded for having the courage to go out."

Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Rights, said the law "basically said that rape in marriage is condoned." Verveer, who has long worked with women in Afghanistan, said, "Women knew everywhere deep down that this was not right. No women should be victims of violence."

Also appearing on the show was Suraya Pakzad, named one of Time's 100 "most influential" people in the world in a just-released issue. Pakzad, a women's rights advocate in Afghanistan, is director of the Voice of Women organization in Herat. The group provides shelter, counseling and support for women.

The marital law, signed earlier this year by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has drawn international criticism. At first, Karzai defended the law, but recently he has said it will be amended. It would apply to about 20 percent of the Afghans who are Shiite.

VOA's Afghan Service broadcasts on radio, TV and Internet ( and TV Ashna has a regular current events show.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

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