This report discusses issues of forced marriage, selling and enslaving women (trafficking), and using women and girls as dispute settlements within the framework of socially acceptable practices (bad) in Afghanistan.

This report comprises the Afghanistan component of an internal project examining women’s participation in family and domestic violence health policy and policy development. Carried out across five different countries – Canada, Australia, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Afghanistan – the goal of the project was to describe the characteristic of the domestic violence health policy community in each country. The report begins with a rationale for the project and an introduction to the unique situation facing women in Afghanistan.

In this report, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, its causes and consequences, welcomes the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the Government of Afghanistan as a sign of its political will and commitment to end gender discrimination. However, despite some progress over the last year, concerns remain which the Special Rapporteur has outlined, along with the remaining challenges yet to overcome.

This report discusses the situation of violence against women in Afghanistan as of 2006. Yakin Ertürk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, reports that the situation of women is dramatic and severe violence against them all-pervasive. Four factors underlie women’s vulnerability and the perpetuation of violence: the traditional patriarchal gender order; the erosion of protective social mechanisms; the lack of the rule of law; and poverty and insecurity in the country.

The section that relates to violence against women begins on page 39 of this report. It addresses violence against women in the family and discuses the fact that the Afghan Criminal Code contains no provision that clearly criminalises violence in the private sphere. It discusses the problem of rape victims, when reporting their assault to the police, being charge for zina offences. There is a long section addressing the problem of zina crimes and punishments in general, including the fact that ‘running away from home’ can incur a zina conviction.

Violence against women in Afghanistan, according to this report by Amnesty International, is perpetuated by a ‘culture’ of impunity on a vast scale for such violence. In Afghanistan, few cases of abuse and violence are reported to the criminal justice system, and almost none of the cases that were have been subject to investigation or prosecution. Amnesty International’s research indicated that in some parts of the country custom or tradition is used to legitimise the violent deaths of women.

Uphold the rights of Afghan women and girls to be freed from gender-based violence. Secure the independence of women shelters in Afghanistan. The Global Campaign to Stop Violence against Women in the Name of ‘Culture’, an international network of women’s human rights defenders and advocates, fully supports our sisters in Afghanistan in resisting their government’s attempt to put the country’s women shelters under State control. If the Afghan government proceeds with this proposed legislation, it will invite serious risks to the already-fragile security of women and girls who are in desperate need of protection from gender–based violence in their country. This development is alarming and deserves the attention of the international community.

The recent move by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) to take control of women’s shelters is deeply worrying.  I have spoken to NGO workers who run these shelters, and they have been outraged by the new legislation. Over the past few years I have personally been able to see the work of five of these shelters out of a total of 14 set up around the country by NGOs after the Taleban’s fall. The shelters house hundreds of Afghan women and girls whose lives are at risk due to forced marriage, underaged marriage, and other forms of violence. Amnesty International urges the Afghan government to reconsider this terrible piece of legislation and, instead, recommit itself to protecting the women of Afghanistan and those courageous human rights defenders, many of them women, who are trying to counteract years of discrimination and sexual violence against the women of Afghanistan.

As a sequel to their edited volume, Land of the Unconquerable: The Lives of Contemporary Afghan Women (University of California Press, March 2011), Jennifer Heath, independent scholar, author and editor of nine books, and Ashraf Zahedi, a University of California, Berkley scholar, are assembling an edited book about  the children of Afghanistan. The first of its kind, this comprehensive collection will examine the impact of socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that shape the lives of Afghan children from birth to the legal marriage ages of 16 and 18 and that contextualizes their experiences in diverse social settings. Articles (no longer than 5,000 words) will be due on May 1st, 2011. 

Les talibans ne sont plus opposés à l'idée que les filles fréquentent l'école, affirme le ministre de l'Éducation afghan, Farooq Wardak, dans une entrevue accordée au Times Educational Supplement de Londres. L'information n'a pas été confirmée par les talibans.

« Ce que j'entends au plus haut niveau politique chez les talibans, c'est qu'ils ne sont plus opposés à l'éducation ni à l'éducation des filles », affirme M. Wardak. « C'est un changement d'attitude, un changement comportemental, un changement culturel. »

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