“Afghan women’s rights on the brink”, says charity ActionAid
Violence against women in Afghanistan is endemic and attacks on women are increasing in the run up to the withdrawal of NATO troops, a report by the charity ActionAid has found.
Despite advances in women’s rights, the report says that they are still subject to “commonplace violence at home and in public places”, with their attackers often going unpunished.
The report warns that the gains of the past ten years could be reversed if early and effective action is not taken to ensure there is appropriate funding and support for women.
ActionAid is calling for the issue of violence against women to be top of the agenda when members of the international community meet in Tokyo to discuss Afghanistan’s future on July 8.
The organisation is asking for international donors to demand that the Afghan government tackles the issue, as part of any financial support and that a transparent monitoring system is adopted.
The agency wants at least $90million USD to be dedicated to the cause over the next five years – more than three times the amount currently on the table.
Since the ousting of the Taliban in much of the country just over ten years ago, the majority of Afghan women say their lives have improved, according to an ActionAid survey last year.
Following parliamentary elections earlier this year, women represent 27 per cent of the country’s MPs.
It is one of the few countries with quota laws where women have been elected outside the quota, despite female candidates facing violence and intimidation.
The country also established The Elimination of Violence against Women Law in 2009, which criminalised over 20 acts and specified punishments.
However, in 2011 a report by the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and the Office of the UN High Commissioner found that, although judicial officials have begun to use the law, many women and members of the judicial system did not fully understand its implications.
It found that the majority of cases of violence against women are often dealt with outside the formal judicial system and often ends up in pressure on the victim to withdraw her complaint or minor punishment given to perpetrators.
Last year, the country was named as the most dangerous place to be a woman in a poll by the Thomson-Reuters Foundation.
ActionAid’s survey also revealed that nine out of ten women said they feared a return to a Taliban-style government, and many were specifically worried about the withdrawal of international troops.
According to the UK’s foreign and commonwealth office, the purpose of the Tokyo conference is to “secure concrete financial, development and security assistance from the international community for Afghanistan beyond 2014.”
Mary Akrami, Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre, said:
“There cannot be national security without women’s security, there can be no peace when women’s lives are fraught with violence, when our children can’t go to schools, when we cannot step outside for fear of acid attacks.”