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Rights Group Says Safer Facilities Needed for Afghan Policewomen

Afghan policewomen aim their guns during shooting exercises at the Afghan National Police Academy shooting range, in Kabul, December 9, 2012.
A human rights group has called on Afghanistan to take "immediate action" to provide separate toilets and changing rooms for the country's female police officers.

A Human Rights Watch statement said Thursday the lack of "safe and separate toilets" makes the female officers "particularly vulnerable" to sexual assaults from their male colleagues. The group says there have been numerous reports of female police officers being raped by their male counterparts.

Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director, says the government's failure to establish safe and secure facilities for its policewomen is indicative of the government's failure to recognize that women have a "crucial role" to play in law enforcement in Afghanistan.

Crimes against women

Adams says the "consistent presence" of female police officers across the country is necessary to address what it calls the "rampant violence against women" in the wider Afghan society.

HRW says employing greater numbers of female police will improve access for women seeking to report violent crimes and pursue justice, given the cultural sensitivity and stigma in reporting sexual and other violence against women, particularly to men.

Adams says, without the presence of female officers across the country, legal protection for women will remain "an unfulfilled promise."

Women are slightly more than one percent of Afghanistan's security forces. HRW says the Interior Ministry has set a goal of 5,000 women in the forces by the end of 2014. However, the the ministry has acknowledged that is "unlikely" to happen.

President Hamid Karzai Western-backed government has passed a law on "elimination of violence against women" to ensure greater protection.
However, HRW says the law has not been adequately enforced, in part because of the lack of female police officers to assist female crime victims.