Clashes over new marriage law in Afghanistan

A group of some 1,000 Afghans swarmed a demonstration of 300 women protesting against a new conservative marriage law on Wednesday. The women were pelted with small stones as police struggled to keep the two groups apart.

The law, passed last month, says a husband can demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill or would be harmed by intercourse, a clause that critics say legalizes marital rape. It also regulates when and for what reasons a wife may leave her home alone.

Women’s rights activists scheduled a protest on Wednesday attended by mostly young women. But the group was swamped by counter-protesters, both men and women, who shouted down the women’s chants.

Some picked up gravel and stones and threw them at the women, while others shouted “Death to the slaves of the Christians!”

Female police held hands around the group to create a protective barrier.

The government of President Hamid Karzai has said the Shiite family law is being reviewed by the Justice Department and will not be implemented in its current form. Governments and rights groups around the world have condemned the legislation, and President Barack Obama has labelled it “abhorrent.”