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The Distressing Status of Afghan Women

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Once again the distressing status of the Afghan women has come under the spotlight, as there are reports that a teenage girl, voluntarily working for polio vaccination program, was killed by unknown armed attackers in Kapisa Province. According to the reports, Anisa, 17, was on her way to a health clinic when attacked and later succumbed to her injures.

This comes just a few days after another report that two men had been arrested for slitting the throat of a 15-year-old girl after her family refused a marriage proposal. Meanwhile, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has criticized gender discrimination and lack of equal educational opportunities for girls in Afghanistan. The report is dismissed by government officials.

All these reports highlight a simple fact: that despite more than a decade of efforts for improving the rights and status of Afghan women, there are still potential dangers threatening the minimum hard-gained achievements regarding the lives and conditions of the women. The threats to women are abundant. There is still space for fatal violence against women. Still, the Afghan society remains deeply conservative over embracing new status and rights for the women. Due to weak judicial system and dominant culture of violence, the culprits and perpetrators of violence against women do

not get punished, creating a de facto status of impunity in far corners of the country.

Recently, the government observed the International Day of Eliminating Violence against Women. The observance is a sample of what the government has done for improving the rights and status of women. There have been many symbolic measures by the government such as establishing a ministry for the women, observing the international days for the women and mothers and organizing seminars and workshops. But of course there have been remarkable achievements, for which, mostly, the mass media, civil organizations and pro-women activists are credited. But regrettably, the government, as the main driver of reforms and social policies, has fallen short of actively pursuing efficient policies.

In many areas, instead of moving forward, the rights and dignity of women have been put into danger of compromise. So far, there have been serious setbacks on the side of government, as the extremist groups and conservatives have violated the rights of women or put them in danger of violation. The government has no strict and clearly defined stance on women rights in peace negotiations with the insurgent groups which time and again spark concerns and outrage. Moreover, the women –as are the most vulnerable in case of power-sharing with the Taliban– have not been involved in the peace talks with Taliban.

As our much-revered constitution has clearly defined the future, the government must be committed to restoring the rights and dignity of women and do more in fighting the main causes of violence and discrimination against women. Women’s security, along with access to education, health care and other human rights must be top priorities for the Afghan government. The way ahead is as crystal clear: whether the government remains committed to staunchly defending the rights and improving the status of women or there will be risk of systematic failures in the campaign of eliminating violence against them.

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