A new report from UNIFEM -- the United Nations Development Fund for Women -- finds that violence against women in post-Taleban Afghanistan remains widespread, and that much of it continues to go unreported. The report is narrated by Shaista Mangal.
The U.N. survey finds that women continue to suffer from high rates of domestic abuse in post-Taleban Afghanistan. The report says violence typically occurs in the home at the hand of a spouse.
Sumantra Guha is a program specialist in the Asia/Pacific section of UNIFEM -- the United Nations Development Fund for Women -- in New York. "Levels of sexual abuse, levels where intimate partners are involved in violence are quite high in Afghanistan,” he says.
Guha says victims frequently decline to report domestic abuse because of the social stigma attached. "If a woman goes and talks about violence against her, this is considered immodest, and she is supposed to have committed dishonor to her family. So this is the biggest reason why women don't come out."
Contributing factors include the general climate of violence in a nation at war, its often-limited economic resources, the traditional patriarchal ideology still common in many areas, and a lack of social systems to uphold legal rights.
"If you look at Afghanistan's constitution, Afghanistan's new constitution, it guarantees women and men equal rights as citizens. The problem is in the practice of those laws, is in the actual interpretation of those laws. Institutional justice mechanisms must expand their outreach right up to the village level."
The report's authors also believe that neither the government, communities, nor families are doing enough to prevent violence directed at women. But UNIFEM's Guha says that is beginning to change as the government attempts to implement a national action plan for women.
"This national action plan for women has a major focus on violence and on protecting women's human rights. So we have very strong commitments solidly backed by the government and backed by its international development partners."
Prior to the overthrow of the Taleban regime in 2001, Afghanistan's women were barred from voting, formal schooling, and employment outside the home. Since then, some gains have been made, including the right to participate in elections and stand female candidates for parliament. But the report concludes Afghanistan's women are still too often treated as second-class citizens.