News / Asia

Conflict, Violence Harsh on Afghan, Pakistani Women

Afghan women in line queuing to get their registration cards on the last day of voter registration for the presidential elections, April 1.
Afghan women in line queuing to get their registration cards on the last day of voter registration for the presidential elections, April 1.
Sharon Behn
Prolonged conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan have had a particularly harsh effect on women in both countries. Terrorism, sectarian conflict, criminality and a culture of impunity are limiting women's ability to get to school and get jobs outside the home, trapping them in an ever-smaller public space.
 
During the past decade, women have made significant strides towards social, political and financial empowerment in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. But analysts say the gains are being threatened.
 
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are regaining areas of the country and once again imposing their beliefs that women should not be educated or participate in society outside the home.
 
Nader Nadery, director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, says in areas where there is an absence of rule of law, there is an absolute impunity for those who are committing violence, specifically against women.
 
In those areas, he says, protection becomes a primary issue but is often used against the women themselves.
 
"In some cases, the protection issue becomes an excuse for the male members who intentionally prevent women to be part of society, be part of the economy, be part of the politics, and they bring this issue of I am pushing you in the home because I want you to be protected. This is what the Taliban were trying to do, and still are doing," said Nadery.
 
Pakistani social researcher Nazish Brohi says in areas where the Pakistani Taliban operate or have influence, girls are being targeted, and women are retreating behind the veil and into their houses.

"I think over 500 girls' schools have been bombed. Women councilors who are women who were politically engaged who were elected into office, they were specifically threatened by the Taliban and asked to either stop or withdraw from the political sphere or face persecution. Two of them were shot dead. As a result, the rest of them either resigned or just simply stopped attending office," said Brohi.

In Pakistan's south and southwest, ethnic violence also has forced women to cover their faces and severely curtailed their social mobility.
 
Brohi says with the overall deterioration of the rule of law in Pakistan, women no longer feel the state can protect them. Instead, they are turning to family or local neighborhood councils for help and protection.

"The central concept really seems to be impunity, that the state is unwilling to call these aggressors or perpetrators of crimes into account because of [a] it's own incapacity, [b] it's unwillingness and [c] it's general inefficiency," she said.
 
But the analysts say in spite of the threat of violence or even death, women are still pushing forward in both nations.
 
In Pakistan, more women are attending university and entering the work place, more women are voting, and more are refusing to be forced into marriage. But
Brohi says that comes at a cost.

"What I'm saying is that there is an increasing number of women making their own decisions, and an increasing number of women who therefore face violence for making those decisions," she said.
 
In Afghanistan, where women vividly remember living under Taliban rule when they were punished for leaving the house without a male relative or showing even an inch of ankle, Nadery says women are fighting against legislation that would erode their rights.

"In each of those battles the Afghan women have fought back. They were on the street.  They were in the Parliament house. They were at the office of the president, knocking at his door," he said.

And in each of those battles, the women won.

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid