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Concern Over Afghan Women’s Rights As Bonn Conference Begins

NEW YORK (TrustLaw) - As a major international conference on the future of Afghanistan gets underway in Bonn on Monday, the preservation of women’s rights has emerged as a focus of great concern.

The conference comes 10 years to the day after the Bonn Agreement, signed on Dec. 5, 2001, which established the transitional government led by President Hamid Karzai and provided the framework for a new Afghan constitution.

However, with the planned withdrawal of most NATO troops by 2014 and the resurgence of the Taliban in parts of the country, many fear that gains in human rights in Afghanistan are in danger of reversal, particularly those pertaining to women.

“Human rights, and in particular women’s rights, were cited as a key benefit of the defeat of Taliban rule in 2001,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

“But ten years later, many basic rights are still ignored or downplayed.  While there have been improvements, the rights situation is still dominated by poor governance, lack of rule of law, impunity for militias and police, laws and policies that harm women and conflict-related abuses,” he said in a statementAfghanistan: A decade of missed opportunities on Dec 4.

The Taliban and other armed groups attack and threaten women, frequently focusing on women in public life, school girls, and the staff of girls’ schools. 

And the government incarcerates women and girls for ‘moral crimes’ such as running away from home - even when doing so is not prohibited by statutory law. About half of the approximately 700 women and girls in jail face such charges, HRW said.

Infant mortality and maternal mortality remain among the highest in the world, with 1 in 10 children dying before the age of five and a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes approximately every two hours.

“Recent reforms, like the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, have largely failed to improve the lives of ordinary women, as the government is not enforcing its provisions,” HRW said.

“Though women are afforded the same rights as men under the Afghan constitution, in practice, violations often go unchecked by Afghan authorities, who themselves have been among the violators,” reported Stars and Stripes, a publication that supplies news to the U.S. military.

“The recent case of a woman thrown in jail after she was raped cast a harsh light on such abuses. Under outside pressure from international press and politicians and internal pressure from Afghan women’s organizers, the Afghan president pardoned the victim Thursday before heading to Bonn,” Matt Millham wrote in Stars and Stripes.

In the same story, Barry Salaam, an Afghan journalist, who was among two Afghan civilian speakers at a pre-conference forum on Dec. 3, was quoted as saying that the gains in women’s rights in the country appeared significant “mostly because of where they began 10 years ago, which was ‘zero’.”

05 Dec 2011 11:09

Source: Trustlaw // Lisa Anderson

Article License: Copyright - Article License Holder: TrustLaw

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