Afghan government says mother's name can go on birth certificates

KABUL, Sept 3- The Afghan government has accepted a proposal to put mothers’ names on their children’s birth certificates, in a rare win for women’s rights activists in the deeply conservative country. The move came as the Afghan government prepared for talks with the Taliban following a U.S. peace deal with the militants signed in February.

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Sept 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Afghangovernment has accepted a proposal to put mothers’ names ontheir children’s birth certificates, in a rare win for women’srights activists in the deeply conservative country.

Campaigners have for years pushed for women to be named onofficial documents including children’s birth certificates,which like Afghan identity documents carry only the name of aperson’s father, under the hashtag #Whereismyname.

But they have faced opposition in the conservative andpatriarchal Muslim country, where some see even using a woman’sname as offensive.

A woman’s name often does not appear on the invitation toher wedding – only those of her father and husband-to-be – oreven on her grave.

This week the cabinet’s legal affairs committee, headed byVice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish, agreed to a proposal tochange the law and allow the names of both parents.

“The decision to include the mother’s name in the ID card isa big step towards gender equality and the realization ofwomen’s rights,” Danish’s office said in a statement.

The legal amendment still needs approval from the country’smale-dominated parliament and must then be signed off by thepresident.

It was drafted by Naheed Farid, an independent lawmaker whochairs the parliamentary commission on women’s affairs, andother MPs to be presented to the house after its summer breakends on Sept. 21.

The move came as the Afghan government prepared for talkswith the Taliban following a U.S. peace deal with the militantssigned in February.

Many Afghan women worry that deal does not safeguard theirrights, and fear that a U.S. troop withdrawal and there-emergence of the Taliban in Afghan politics could destroytheir hard-won gains, from education to freedom of movement.

The Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic lawthat included public lashings, flogging and stonings.

Under their rule from 1996 to 2001, Afghan women wereobliged to cover their faces and could not study, work or leavethe house without a male relative.

The group has said it would allow women to be educated andemployed, but within the limits of Islamic law and Afghanculture.

On Thursday, Mawlawi Qalam Uddin, the former head of themoral police during the Taliban era, called the proposed changea “Western plan”.

“This plan has come from America and Europe. Nobody canforce this plan on the people of Afghanistan,” he told a pressconference in Kabul.

Marian Sama, a women’s rights activist and member of thelower house of parliament, told the Thomson Reuters Foundationthat while the cabinet approval was “just the beginning”, shewas hopeful it would soon become a law.

“We realise it is considered a taboo in our traditionalsociety and there will certainly be obstacles in getting thedraft law approved, but I believe that a tireless struggle canlead us to this change and beyond”, she said.

(Reporting by Shadi Khan Saif, Writing by Annie [email protected], Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit theThomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of ThomsonReuters, that covers the lives of people around the world whostruggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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