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Cablegate: Taliban-Style Morality Bill Unlikely to See Action

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PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2562 2621123
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181123Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5562
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 002562

SIPDIS

NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM AF
SUBJECT: TALIBAN-STYLE MORALITY BILL UNLIKELY TO SEE ACTION
FOR NOW

1. SUMMARY. Media reports citing a Taliban-style morality
law drafted by some National Assembly MPs likely overstate
the proposal's support in the Lower House. The proposal
gained notoriety in the media last week, as elements of the
bill banning make-up, loud music, and dancing on television
reached the public and caused an outcry among human rights
groups. However, several MPs and parliament staff members
dismissed the bill as a proposal that will go nowhere. Lower
House Speaker Yunus Qanooni's staff told PolOff they had no
plans to include such a bill in Parliament's agenda.
Meanwhile, Afghan civil rights NGOs have mobilized to fight
the bill should it move forward and are encouraging moderate
MPs to better defend constitutional rights. End Summary.

Morality Bill Has Little Support Outside of Original Sponsors
----------

2. The bill, called the "Law to Fight Corruptions of
Morality," includes a number of provisions reminiscent of the
Taliban regime. Among the measures the bill would enact are:
banning women from wearing make-up and requiring a veil in
public, banning female dancers from public events and
television broadcasts, banning men from wearing "feminine"
clothing, and prohibiting animal fights, billiards, video
games, and loud music. The bill also demands separate halls
for men and women at wedding receptions. Punishments in the
bill range from small fines to lengthy jail terms.

3. According to multiple sources at Parliament, the bill
lacks the support of most MPs. According to the Afghan
Constitution (Article 97), government ministries take the
lead in introducing legislation. In cases where MPs want to
initiate bills themselves, at least 10 MPs must endorse the
bill and convince one-fifth of a house's total MPs (about 50
in the case of the Lower House) to agree to place it on the
agenda. Once on the agenda, every committee with a stake in
the law needs to approve the bill before it comes up for a
final vote; if approved, it moves on to the Upper House and
then the president.

4. As of this week, 10 MPs had successfully moved the
"Morality Bill" past the Counternarcotics Committee, whose
members constitute most of the original sponsors, including
chairman Mullah Taj Mohammad Mujahid (Kabul, Pashtun), a
well-known religious conservative believed to be the lead
drafter. However, parliament staff members say the bill
lacks support from other committee chairs, including National
Economy Chairman Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoi (Ghazni, Pashtun),
who told his staff his committee would not take any action on
the bill. Without a government ministry pushing the
legislation, Qanooni's office does not expect the bill will
reach the Lower House's agenda this year, if at all.

NGOs Concerned, Plan to Lobby Against Bill
----------

5. Nilofar Sakhi, Open Society Institute (OSI) country
director, said she was deeply concerned about the bill,
characterizing it as "very dangerous" and "straight from the
Taliban era." Even if the bill does not become a law, she
said it shows some MPs do not support the constitutionally
guaranteed equality of Afghan women. Representatives from
several hundred Afghan civil society organizations met two
weeks ago to discuss the bill. Sakhi said after an emotional
discussion, the representatives selected five legal experts
to report on the bill's constitutionality and raise concerns
that the bill would restrict women's freedoms. OSI plans to
work through NGOs to provide capacity building and advocacy
workshops to MPs in an effort to strengthen the voices of
moderate parliamentarians.
WOOD

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