News / Asia

UN Says Afghanistan Failing on Protecting Women's Basic Rights

Afghan women listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech about women's rights in Kabul (File)
Afghan women listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech about women's rights in Kabul (File)
Ayaz Gul

The United Nations says traditional women's rights are being violated across Afghanistan, urging the country's leadership to enforce a recently enacted law aimed at protecting women. U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has released the finding of its report in Kabul on the eve of International Human Rights Day.

Top officials of the U.N. mission say the report is drawn from extensive interviews conducted this year with Afghan men, women, government officials and religious leaders in almost all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Giving details of the report at a news conference in Kabul, the mission's director for human rights, Georgette Gagnon, said that widespread customs such as child marriage, honor killings and giving away girls to settle disputes have undermined the rights of Afghan women.

UNAM Director of Human Rights Georgette Gagnon (file photo)
UNAM Director of Human Rights Georgette Gagnon (file photo)

"These harmful practices are widespread occurring in varying degrees in all communities urban and rural and among all ethnic groups," she said. "And these practices have been worsened by more than 30 years of insecurity and poverty. These practices are of course rooted in discriminatory views and beliefs about the role and position of women in Afghan society and have caused suffering, pain, humiliation and marginalization for millions of Afghan women and girls."

She says those who are involved in these harmful acts to women's rights need to be brought to justice and the communities that are letting them happen need to speak out.

"Many religious scholars, elders and others that we consulted told us that many of these harmful practices are inconsistent with Sharia Law [Islamic law] and that the role of religious leaders and community elders in both continuing and ending these practices is very critical."

The report has praised introduction of a new law in the country in August of 2009 that bars child marriage and makes it illegal to buy or sell women for marriage.

Georgette Gagnon of the U.N. mission says that the legislation and steps taken under it to prosecute some of those  committing crimes against women are important changes in Afghanistan.

She says that because of an increased awareness about rights of women in the country, many communities are opposed to harmful traditional practices and better implementation of laws can further the cause.

"Little meaningful and sustainable progress for women's rights can be achieved in Afghanistan as long as women and girls are subject to these practices that harm, degrade, humiliate and deny them their basic human rights," she said.

The U.N official says that ensuring the human rights of Afghan women, their access to healthcare, education and employment are crucial while Afghan leaders are engaged in the peace reintegration and reconciliation process.

President Hamid Karzai's government is currently engaged in efforts aimed at involving Taliban and other Afghan insurgents in the political system of the country provided these forces denounce violence.

During their five-year rule in most of Afghanistan, until they were dislodged by the U.S-led coalition in late 2001, the Taliban had restricted movement of women in the society by barring them from education and outdoor employment activities and ordering them to wear burqas.

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