Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has signed a law which "legalises" rape, women's groups and the United Nations warn.
Critics claim that Karzai helped rush the bill through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.
In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.
"It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century," fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation.
"It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable," she added.
The law regulates personal matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and sexual relations among Afghanistan's minority Shia community.
"It's about votes. Karzai is in a hurry to appease the Shia because the elections are on the way," Karokhail said.
The provisions are reminiscent of the hardline Taliban regime, which banned women from leaving their homes without a male relative.
But in a sign of Afghanistan's faltering steps towards gender equality, politicians who opposed it have been threatened.
The bill lay dormant for more than a year, but in February it was rushed through parliament as President Karzai sought allies in a constitutional row over the upcoming election.