A controversial proposed law in Afghanistan that includes a provision making it illegal for a Shia Muslim woman to refuse to have sex with her husband is under review, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada says.
Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad said the Afghan government is studying the law, which has sparked international outrage, to determine its status, and pleaded for patience and understanding.
"I fully understand the reaction — the immediate, emotional reaction of countries like Canada who have done so much to build a young democracy," Samad said in an interview.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leaders have expressed strong concerns about the legislation, which would also make it illegal for a woman to leave the house without her husband's permission, or have custody of children.
The law is intended to regulate family life only inside Afghanistan's Shia community, which makes up about 20 per cent of Afghanistan's 30 million people.
"People also need to understand that this young democracy is immature. It is not at the same standard as a Canadian or European democracy," Samad said. "And it's in a very different cultural context as well. We are going to fall down, we are going to make mistakes, and we're going to move forward as a result."
The Canadian government summoned Samad for consultations over the law, considered a form of diplomatic rebuke.
Samad said the condition of women in his country cannot be compared to the days under the Taliban, who banned women from appearing in public without a body-covering burka and a male escort from the family.
Women now hold 89 of parliament's 351 seats and many own businesses. Millions of girls also now attend school.