Women's Rights in Afghanistan: Two Steps Forward One Step Back
The murder of a young Afghan woman, Mah Gul, for reportedly refusing to prostitute herself, has again brought into stark relief the threat to the human rights and safety of girls and women in Afghanistan.
Last week, the media reported that Mah, a 20 year old woman in Herat, Afghanistan had her throat slashed by relatives. Four people, including her husband and his mother have been arrested in connection with her murder. Reportedly married only four short months ago, Mah’s brutal murder serves as yet another call to action to support the women of Afghanistan working to claim their human rights.
In Afghanistan, where the U.S. continues to play a significant role, the ongoing security transition is putting women’s and girls’ human rights at risk. As horrific as the reports of Mah’s case are, domestic violence is far from the only challenge facing women in Afghanistan. Potential resurgence of the Taliban and other insurgent groups coupled with an Afghan government far too weak on women’s human rights are cause for great concern. That’s why Amnesty International is calling for a swift plan of action by the United States to support Afghan women’s rights.
When the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, women and girls in Afghanistan faced a dire human rights situation. Women had little freedom of movement and were, in effect, confined to the home. The Taliban banned women from seeking employment, obtaining an education, or leaving home unaccompanied by a male relative. They enforced these restrictions through beatings and torture.
However, more than ten years after the overthrow of the Taliban, modest advances have been made for girls and women in Afghanistan. The Afghan constitution now guarantees the right to equality for both men and women and sets a 25 percent quota for women’s representation in parliament.
Today, three million girls go to school, whereas under the Taliban, almost none attended school. Women make up 20 percent of university graduates and their numbers are growing. Roughly ten percent of all prosecutors and judges are women, when there were none under the Taliban. In 2009 President Hamid Karzai issued the Elimination of Violence Against Women law; giving survivors of violence hope for justice.
Violence against women, though, remains pervasive. Attacks on schools for girls continue. Amnesty International’s 2011 Human Rights Report on Afghanistan states that although 1,891 cases of violence against women were documented, the true number may be much higher.
This is almost beyond dispute given recent reports of young women like Mah. The Attorney General of Afghanistan admitted on TV that this case was, quote, “a lucky one in that it has come to the attention of the media and law enforcement agencies, so that justice can be served. However there are many hidden cases just like Mah’s, which go unreported and for which there is no justice."
Stopping violence against women and advancing these gains if the Taliban and other insurgent groups grow in influence will be difficult. Members of the Afghan Women's Network, a women's rights consortium, express grave concern about the future, but also fierce determination not to see the clock rolled back. They have also joined Amnesty International in outlining a specific action plan of steps that need to be taken in Afghanistan.
This plan of action outlines key steps, such as gender training for police officers, which will help ensure that women’s rights are supported and not rolled back.
Although any plan will come too late for Mah, each of us can take action now to make a difference for the women of Afghanistan.
Find out more and join us in demanding that the U.S. government take action and adopt an Action Plan for Afghan Women to ensure that their rights are not traded away in Afghanistan’s transition. Want to learn more about Amnesty International? Follow them here.
Cristina Finch is Program Director, Women's Human Rights at Amnesty International USA and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.
Politics by Yummier Means An Israeli-Palestinian popup restaurant and the precarious art of gastric diplomacy Two chefs win over hearts, minds, and stomachs in Jerusalem.
Rag Time Seven seriously f’d up t-shirts that somehow made their way onto shelves Brazil’s “lookin’ to score” tee is, unfortunately, part of a recent tradition of aberrant apparel.
LeBron James Complicates Cleveland's Comeback Story Returning to Cleveland, LeBron James contends with a city’s past and conflicting views of its future
The Equalizers For these Brazilian footballing legends, competitive play wasn’t a diversion from societal ills, but a means to redress them. A secret history of the fight for social justice among Brazil’s greatest soccer stars of the past century