[JURIST] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has signed into law a bill which significantly reduces women's rights, including legalizing rape within a marriage, the Guardian reported [text] Tuesday. Critics allege that Karzai signed this bill, which has not yet been made public, to increase support among Afghan Shia and Hazara [BBC backgrounders] who support the law, ultimately to improve his re-election chances. This very scenario is one Karzai's political opponents feared when the the Afghanistan Supreme Court extended the presidential term [JURIST report] until August amid safety concerns regarding the upcoming election. The Afghan presidential election will take place on August 20th, 2009, with likely challengers including former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, ex-finance ministers Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Anwarul Haq Ahadi, and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Karzai has experienced a tumultuous career since his appointment as interim President in 2002. In early March, the UN reported that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is worsening [JURIST report], one week after a similar US report rebuked Afghanistan for, among other problems, continued use of child labor [JURIST report]. In November, the UN urged Afghanistan to discontinue use of the death penalty [JURIST report], which Karzai had reinstated following a four-year moratorium [JURIST report]. In April 2008, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Karzai [Guardian report] during a military parade, the third attempt on his life since 2001.