• Rights Groups call for action on Afghan women's rights

Rights Groups call for action on Afghan women's rights

10 July 2013

Rights organisations are calling on the Afghan government to do more to protect women, as Afghanistan appears before a key UN committee on women’s rights this week.

The country is submitting a report to the committee of experts which monitors states’ implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. 

The Afghan government’s written report to the Committee highlights the many advances made in Afghan women’s rights in over recent years.  These include a major rise in the number of girls attending school and higher education as well as improvements in access to health care.

However, the report also cites the lack of security in Afghanistan, and violence against women, as the most important challenges to the country’s implementation of the Convention.

Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Women’s Network also made submissions to the UN Committee.  They highlighted rights groups’ concern over recent threats to Afghanistan’s  landmark Elimination of Violence Against Women  law ( EVAW).   Passed by Presidential decree in 2009, this law criminalised, among other things, forced and child marriage, buying and selling women for marriage and offering girls as a way of resolving disputes.

In a news release, Human Rights Watch said recent developments surrounding the EVAW law “have increased concerns about the government’s commitment to women’s rights“.

These included a parliamentary debate in May aimed at obtaining approval for the law.  That debate ended in disarray, with some MPs calling for the law to be amended.

According to Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, “Several  members of Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, have expressed increasing hostility towards women’s rights and appear to be making a concerted effort to roll rights protections back.”

In addition, the organisation says,  President Karzai recently told women’s rights activists that he was unable to support further efforts to protect the EVAW law.

Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government to take strong action. According to Brad Adams, “President Karzai and both houses of parliament should not allow those extremely hostile to women’s rights to destroy 12 years of progress for women and their future hopes.”