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Women’s Rights in Jeopardy

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As the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is on the decline, there are worrisome signs of a possible rollback of women’s rights in the country after 2014 as violence against the vulnerable segment of the society is already on the rise and policymakers fail to provide sufficient protection for women. The mutilation of Setarah which occurred recently in Herat province once more highlighted the startling prospect of a possible deterioration of women’s situation in the face of national and international decline in commitments for defending women’s rights. What compound to the fears about a possible setback in preserving the hard-gained achievements for women is the fact that the Afghan government is persistently failing to commit to protect women’s rights and international community’s interests in defending Afghan women is declining. According to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, there was a 25 percent increase in number of reported cases of violence against women in Afghanistan during the first six months of this year compared to the same period in last year.

However, what is even more of concerns about the prospect of the hard-gained achievements of Afghan women is that commitments of the Afghan government are declining as the ongoing security and political transitions are the top priorities for the time being. The Afghan government has been failing systematically to take concrete measures for fighting violence against women and considering robust protective arrangements for protecting them. Overwhelmed by challenges such as anti-insurgency campaign and the pervasive corruption, the Afghan government is continuing to fall short of taking sufficient measures for protecting women and preserving their rights.

With the passive role of the government, conservative groups and opponents of women’s rights are now have a louder say in opposing human and women’s rights. Comparing to previous years, the conservative circles are exerting unprecedented level of pressures for reverting back the achievements gained during the last twelve years. These conservative groups are directly involved in policy-making and legislating laws in government institutions and the parliament. These elements recently sent out a shockwave to the civil organizations by secretly starting to consider Sharia-style punishment laws through a commission tasked by the ministry of justice. Before that, an effort to approve the law of Elimination of Violence Against Women by the parliament failed as the conservatives labeled it against Islam.

Amid the political disengagement from the plight of the women, civil organizations and the media can play a crucial role in raising the issue to the international level and persuading the government – and the international community – to do more for protecting the women in Afghanistan. As the ongoing security transition and the forthcoming elections are currently top priorities for the government, the civil organizations needs to step up campaigns to get international attention to the worsening situation for the women of Afghanistan. The shocking news of mutilation of a woman in Heart may only be an instance of another case of violence but is also an alarming sign for a possible rollback of the achievements of Afghan women in the future.

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