Palwasha Kakar


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"Embedded in the legal history of Afghanistan are the tribal codes of the Pashtun or Afghan tribes.....These tribal law codes are called Pashtunwali, and they are widely practiced as a component of customary law, especially in rural Pashtun majority areas. Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.


The role of women in Pashtunwali is little studied and even less understood. Much has been written about the oppression of women in Afghanistan, and it is often attributed to Pashtun tribal practices, such as male elders having say over marriages of young women; high bride prices; honor killings of women.....Among the large Pashtun landowner class and among the city-dwelling Pashtun's, the seclusion of women is prevalent; and chaderi are worn when the woman leaves the confines of her household compound.


Women are constrained by the Pashtunwali code in so many ways that it is difficult to understand why they participate in this system, or why, when women's rights reforms are discussed, they resist them, even those associated with health care and education....


While much of the legal process of customary law seems to be in the control of men, there are layers of legislative authority in Afghan rural society that function within specifically gendered networks and others that bridge those gender segregated networks. This paper is an attempt to understand women's authority to legislate and to enforce norms within Pashtunwali, while at the same time maintaining a critical eye on issues of inequality and contention....


There are three levels of women's leadership and legislative authority: the national level, the village level, and the family level....


At the family level, which is one of the extended family, women create social networks of hierarchy with a leader who manages the household resources, delegates work, forms and strengthens social networks, and gains credibility and social mobility through marriage choices. She also resolves conflicts among women within the household....

There may be more than one female household leader. If the female leaders work together compatibly, the houshold will stay unified; otherwise the house must be partitioned...."



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