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After the Occupation: Afghani Women

December 19, 2013
tags:#Afghanistan, #Human Rights Watch, #occupation, #Taliban, #women's rights
by:Jonathan Lutes
Since 2001, ongoing efforts have resulted in major advances concerning women's rights in Afghanistan. The number of girls attending schools has increased, and more women go on to have careers in the police and military forces, as well as in politics.

Four years ago, The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) was passed that, among other things, made violence against women a crime. But unfortunately the situation for Afghani women looks like it may return to what it was when the Taliban controlled the country.

In her New York Times Op-Ed piece, Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch argues that the planned withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, along with the international public's diminishing interest in the country's struggles, is opening a window for conservatives and former Taliban members to attack and call for changes in the EVAW because, claims one of its commissioners, it violates Islam. A ban on underage marriage, and the declaration of rape as a crime were among his gripes.

According to a United Nations report, crimes against women — including domestic violence, rape, and forced marriage — have risen in Afghanistan, with only seven percent of the cases making their way through the judicial process. On the other hand, women can be imprisoned for “immoral behavior”, such as extra-marital sex or fleeing their homes. While these things should never be punished with prison sentences in the first place, more worryingly, most of the inmates report that they have fled unbearable circumstances at home and have oftentimes been victims of sexual abuse. They must endure vaginal exams — scientifically unverifiable “virginity tests” — that are requested on the government's behalf and are supposed to prove or disprove the moral integrity of the woman in question, and are used as evidence against them in court.

These practices must come to an end; more attention must be paid to what may happen in post-occupation Afghanistan.

Article written by:
Jonathan Lutes