Attack by Afghan minister sounds alarm over women’s shelters
The Afghan government’s policy towards women’s shelters is again under scrutiny after the justice minister claimed victims living in them were prostitutes.
Activists have demanded that Habibullah Ghaleb be sacked after he suggested they were places of “immorality and prostitution”.
Speaking at a conference organised by the women’s affairs committee of the upper house of parliament, Ghaleb said that the 12 internationally funded shelters had been encouraging young women to defy their parents.
“Mostly they were encouraging girls, saying, ‘If your father says anything bad to you don’t listen to him, if your mother says anything to you don’t listen to them. There are safe houses for you where you can stay.’ What safe houses? What sort of immorality and prostitution was not happening at those places?” he said.
Plans for the Afghan government to take over the running of women’s shelters in the country were abandoned last year after widespread opposition (see WVoN story).
There was widespread concern that the move was aimed at appeasing extremist elements in the country and that increased government control over the shelters’ procedures would make it harder to protect women (see WVoN stories).
There are around 250 women, most of them victims of domestic violence, living in homes run by charities and funded by international donors, according to the Women’s Affairs Ministry.
After this latest attack, leading Afghan women’s rights campaigner Wazhman Frogh said the allegations were unfounded and demanded that Predisent Hamid Karzai sack him.
“We are demanding the president fire the minister for his remarks,” she said.
Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign minister, said in a statement that she was “deeply troubled” by Ghaleb’s comments, which “set back” efforts to fight violence against women in Afghanistan:
“Women forced to resort to shelters are amongst the bravest Afghans we know: they refuse to continue being victimised and instead have acted to ensure their own safety and that of their children,” she said. “They deserve the support of the international community and from the Afghan Government.”
Photo credit: Afghanistan Matters via Creative Commons