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Violence against women: Despite progress, a long way to go in Afghanistan

Women sort pistachios by hand at a privately-owned factory in Herat, Afghanistan. In June 2012 a woman from Parwan province, Afghanistan was publicly executed following allegations of adultery made against her by the Taliban. In July, the head of the Women’s Affairs Department in Laghman province was assassinated and her successor, Najia Seddiqui was murdered just a few months later, in December.

 

These killings and other similar occurrences in areas not controlled by the Government are cited in the latest report examining the situation of violence against women in Afghanistan. The report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) with the support of the UN Human Rights Office says there is increasing concern amongst activists and civil society that “conservative elements resistant to women’s rights are again gaining strength.”
The report examines in particular, progress in implementation of the legislation enacted by the Government of Afghanistan in 2009, which criminalized for the first time child marriage, forced marriage, forced self-immolation and other acts of violence against women, including rape.
Reacting to the murder of Najia Seddiqui on December 10, the UN Human Rights Office has said her killers must be found. It has to be understood “that people who target women in Afghanistan must be brought to justice,” says Office spokesman Rupert Colville.
The responsibility for the killing of her predecessor has been attributed to the Taliban but the UNAMA report points out that she had been threatened by a senior government official because of her refusal to give him information about the whereabouts of a 19 year old woman he wanted to marry. The young woman was already married to a man of her own choosing.
UNAMA describes as an “encouraging development” the increase in the number of incidents being reported. However, the number of convictions remained very low, the report says. A substantial impediment to achieving justice is the continuing practice by the Afghan National Police and prosecutors offices of referring cases to the jirgas (gatherings of elders) and shuras (local councils) “which often undermined implementation of the EVAW law and reinforced harmful practices.”

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