AFGHANISTAN: Women’s hopes for equality fade
- Every 30 minutes, an Afghan
woman dies during childbirth
- 87 percent of Afghan women
- 30 percent of girls have
access to education in Afghanistan
- 1 in every 3 Afghan women
experience physical, psychological or sexual
- 44 years is the average
life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
- 70 to 80 percent of women
face forced marriages in Afghanistan
TAKHAR, 8 March 2007 (IRIN) - Of all her desires,
Fahima, 17, longs most for a life free of violence.
“I was put into chains for a whole month by my
father. I ran away twice but was returned home by the
police. Everybody says I am the guilty one, that my
father has the right to beat me,” she said.
Fahima is far from alone in her experience. Hopes
among Afghan women for a better future are waning as
the violence against them continues.
Women’s rights have fallen down the agenda behind
countering a growing insurgency, tackling opium
production and confronting endemic corruption.
“Day by day the government’s support for women’s
development fades,” said Hangama Anwari, a member of
Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
In 2006, more than 1,650 cases of violence against
women were registered with AIHRC.
And more than 550 women reported severe beatings
and about 120 are documented as having committed
suicide either by burning themselves to death or
overdosing on painkillers.
While the Taliban are condemned for their treatment
of women, the AIHRC recorded more cases of violence
against women in the capital, Kabul, and in the
western province of Herat than in Kandahar – once a
“There are likely to be numerous unregistered cases
of violence against women,” said Dr Suraya Subhrang,
women’s rights commissioner at AIHRC.
In highly conservative Afghanistan, only a fraction
of women dare to breach social taboos and publicly
speak out against violence. They face social stigma if
they appear at police stations and courts to claim
their rights, Subhrang added.
“Women’s development should not be compromised by
security imperatives,” said Adrian Edwards, a
spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in
The situation for women is better in Kabul than
elsewhere in the country.
“Changes in women’s lives have occurred only in
Kabul,” said MP Soona Niloofar from Urozgan province.
Over the past five years, some 3,900 women have
died during childbirth because of a pervasive lack of
In Urozgan and Zabul provinces in the south, more
than 90 percent of girls are deprived of formal
education. According to the UN Development Fund for
Women (UNIFEM), about 90 percent of Afghan women are
Women lack access to essential services
In the northern province of Faryab, 80 per cent of
women experience violence in their daily lives and
lack access to basic health, education and justice
services, according to Fawzia Raufi, an Afghan MP.
However, the Afghan government insists it is making
progress towards gender equality despite there being
three women serving in Afghanistan’s interim and
transitional administrations from 2002-2004 and now
there being just one female minister in the cabinet.
And although 25 percent of Afghanistan’s National
Assembly is comprised of women, many female
parliamentarians say the powerful lawmaking
institution has been systematically dominated by men
who oppose gender equity.
“Women get lesser opportunities to express their
concerns in the Wolesi-Jirag [Lower House of
parliament]. The speaker and administrative staff of
the house think women do not have the capacity to
engage in high politics,” said Hawa Alam Noristani, a
representative of the elected body from Nooristan
Fawzia Aminiy, head of department for legal affairs
at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, is
working towards an ambitious Millennium Development
Goal on gender equality by 2020.
“We have already accomplished 20 percent of the
targets set,” she said.
But she believes a 50-year plan for achieving
equality may be more realistic.
And the spread of media means that abuse of women
is finally becoming a topic of discussion in
“In the past, violence against women was immured
within households. Now we all can hear and read about
it,” said Subhrang.
Meryem Aslan, programme director for UNIFEM in
Afghanistan, said that the prevailing economic
hardship in the country was hindering progress towards
equality for women.
“With or without the Taliban, Afghanistan was and
still is a poor country,” she said.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views
of the United Nations]