UNITED NATIONS - A new law in Afghanistan that seriously curtails womens rights, even explicitly permits marital rape, is a huge step in the wrong direction, the United Nations human rights chief said Thursday, calling for its repeal. Not yet published, the law, which was passed by the two houses of Afghanistans parliament before being reportedly signed by President Hamid Karzai earlier this month, regulates the personal status of the countrys minority Shia community members, including relations between men and women, divorce and property rights. It denies Afghan Shia women the right to leave their homes except for 'legitimate purposes; forbids them from working or receiving education without their husbands express permission; weakens mothers rights in the event of a divorce; and makes it impossible for wives to inherit houses and land from their husbands, even if husbands can inherit property from their wives. This is another clear indication that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, not better, said Navi Pillay, the Geneva-based High Commissioner for Human Rights. Respect for womens rights - and human rights in general - is of paramount importance to Afghanistans future security and development. That such a law has been passed in 2009 targeting women in this manner is extraordinary, reprehensible and reminiscent of the decrees made by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s, she stressed. Afghanistans Shia community, composed mainly of the Hazara minority, comprises some 10 per cent of the countrys total population, and the new law has the strong support of the Hazaras male leadership, even though it has been vigorously opposed by others in the group as well as Afghan human rights campaigners. There are concerns that the law will set precedents adversely affecting all Afghan women, a UN Press statement said. In addition to womens rights, there have been other setbacks to the country that have been undermining efforts to consolidate the rule of law in Afghanistan, such as both freedom of expression by the media and civil society activists being increasingly threatened, Ms Pillay said.