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Retrogressive Moves on Protection of the Women

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In Afghanistan, the women still remain vulnerable to the deep-rooted conservatism and violence in the male-dominated society. Despite considerable progress regarding rights and status of the women in the past twelve years, the conservative circles are still capable of threatening women’s rights as the US-led NATO alliance is withdrawing from Afghanistan. On Saturday, the members of the Afghan parliament debated on the Eliminate Violence Against Women law to approve the law which was passed by presidential decree four years ago. But the discussion was halted after the conservative members of the parliament called for scrapping the law. Many conservative MPs called the law against the Sharia, objecting President Karzai for passing it.

Ironically, the law has been for many years and hundreds of perpetrators of violence against women have imprisoned during past years. As the withdrawal of foreign forces is looming, the traditionalists and conservatives feel them on the upper hand in bidding to scrap the law or, at least, amend it in a way that would weaken the hard-gained progresses of the past twelve years. Women activists hoped that proposing the law for parliamentary approval would further strengthen the status of the Afghan women. But many feared it could pave the way for conservatives to alter the law or weaken protection for the long-suffered Afghan women.

As the government of Afghanistan is trying to negotiate with the Taliban, women and human rights activists are concerned that the rights of women might be compromised in the process in order to appease the Taliban and persuade them to renounce violence. The hot debate in the parliamentary session on Saturday proved that the hard-gained progresses of the past could be reversible after the NATO withdrawal completes by the end of 2014, unless the government of Afghanistan press the house for remaining committed to preserving the rights of women.

In the past, the conservatives tried many times to restrict the role and presence of women in the society particularly in the media. In a controversial move, the Council of Ulema even issued a ‘code of conduct’ for the women, considering them as inferior to the men and obliging them to be accompanied by men when going outside of the home. Even more concerning issue is that Hamid Karzai, who passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women law in 2009, does not seem to be firm in protecting rights of women against retrogressive moves by the mullahs and conservative elements in the Afghan society.

The fact is that the rights and status of Afghan women will remain vulnerable as Afghanistan is entering into a critical decade of no foreign presence in the country. In this critical decade that not only the rights of women but also the rights of Afghan citizens, human rights and the rights of minorities would remain vulnerable to the backward moves of the conservatives as well as the extremist groups. The road ahead is crystal clear: Afghans and the Afghan government have no option but to remain committed to human rights and the rights of the women. Otherwise the conservatives would push for scrapping the laws of human rights and the rights of women.

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