Afghani Constitution Mandates Women’s Seats in Parliament
The announcement that the new draft Afghanistan constitution recognizes Islam as the religion of the state has provoked a great deal of discussion in the West. But lots of Western countries have a state religion. The UK does, in the form of Anglicanism, and the British monarch is the “defender of the Faith.” The US and France have constitutions that separate religion and state, but most countries are not that clear about the issue. Even in Italy there has recently been a public dispute about whether state schools may display crucifixes, and most Italians seem to think they should be able to. Indeed, many legislators wanted to put in the constitution of the new European Union that Europe had a primarily Christian heritage. In Poland the Catholic church was given the right to vet television channel licenses. In Greece, Greek Orthodox priests get to decide if Muslims may build a new mosque, and it is illegal for anyone but Orthodox priests to proselytize. We could bring up Ireland, Bolivia, etc., etc. Westerners are not as secular in law as they think they are.
Few commentators have noted the provision for women’s seats in both houses of parliament. One woman must be elected to the lower house from each province. The President will appoint one-third of the members of the upper house of parliament, and half of those must be women. So one-sixth of senators will be women at the least. Afghanistan’s women are likely to end up being better represented in parliament than American women in Congress.