Afghanistan

A couple of months ago I went back to my native Afghanistan after a year living in Britain. From the sedate surroundings of York University I've found myself back in bustling Kabul - back to the traffic jams, the construction projects and the crazy rush hour. Quite a change.

What has amazed me most upon my return is the massive difference between the realities of life at home and the way that Afghan women are more often than not portrayed in foreign media, which tends to focus on the sorrows, failures and victimised faces of Afghan women.

Afghanistan’s proposed reinstatement of atrocious punishments would mark a dangerous return to legalized state brutality, Amnesty International said today as it urged the authorities to reject such plans. 

Public stoning to death, amputation of limbs and flogging are among the brutal punishments being put forward as draft amendments to the Afghan Penal Code. 

“Stoning and amputation are always torture, and so is flogging as practised in Afghanistan. All these forms of punishment are strictly prohibited under international human rights treaties which are binding on Afghanistan,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International. 

Twelve years after the fall of the TalibanAfghanistan's government is considering bringing back a gruesome spectacle that became synonymous with Islamist cruelty: the use of public stoning as a punishment for sex outside marriage.

The sentence for married adulterers, along with flogging for unmarried offenders, appears in a draft revision of the country's penal code being drawn up by the ministry of justice.

It is the latest in a string of encroachments on hard-won rights for women, after parliament quietly cut the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and drew up a criminal code whose provisions will make it almost impossible to convict anyone for domestic violence.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) “has been until now”, said Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), “a critical, credible institution.” That ‘until now’ is significant: Pillay was visiting Afghanistan partly to discuss the risk to the Commission of losing its ‘A status’ when it comes up for international accreditation in November. The problem is the flawed way new commissioners were appointed earlier this year. Pillay said she had received no assurances from President Karzai that he might revisit those appointments. AAN’s Sari Kouvo and Kate Clark report.

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the Violence is Not our Culture Campaign (VNC), and the Women Living under Muslim Laws international solidarity network (WLUML) strongly condemn the killing of Indian writer and activist Sushmita Banerjee outside her home in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

 

INTRODUCTION

In some countries, power comes with age, but not in Afghanistan where wholesale denial of rights and opportunities are imposed against women throughout their life spectrum. With a society that supports gender-based oppression and an economy that is held hostage by armed conflict, corruption, weak human resources, and wayward politics, Afghanistan may be the worst place in the world for women to grow old.    

June 2013 marked the handover of security from NATO to Afghan forces and US troops are preparing for their final withdrawal from Afghanistan next year after more than a decade of occupation. The growing concerns of women's and human rights groups and observers both within and outside the country over the transition process are well-documented. In the approach to the handover, there has been an escalation of violence with women and children the primary casualties. While both occupying forces and insurgents have been responsible for injury and loss of civilian life, the insurgents have been at the forefront of the most recent violence.

The rights of women and girls, including freedom from child marriage and domestic violence, have generated emotionally charged debates in Afghanistan over the past decade. Such debates often focus on personal opinions and experiences, or on the varied interpretations of religious teachings on marriage. This brochure provides basic facts about the impact of child marriage and domestic violence on the lives of Afghan girls and women, and on the broader economic development of the country. At the end, we provide recommendations for needed reform.

The number of Afghan women jailed for fleeing forced and abusive marriages, and other "moral crimes", has soared since 2011, according to Human Rights Watch.

Hardline students protested in Afghanistan's capital, demanding the repeal of a presidential decree for women's rights that they say is un-Islamic. The protest came days after conservative politicians' vehement opposition blocked an attempt to cement the decree's provisions in law.

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