• The need for women to protect women: policing in Afghanistan

The need for women to protect women: policing in Afghanistan

07 March 2014

by Roslyn Boatman - Media Lead at Oxfam

On International Women's Day, Oxfam look at the role of women police in supporting women's rights

The clock is ticking for Afghan women. So many remain unsafe in their country and their homes and, with only a matter of months before full political and military transition, more must urgently be done to ensure they are protected.

Despite 12 years of rhetoric declaring women’s rights to be one of the greatest gains since the 2001 international intervention, Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Violence against women continues to be endemic. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, UNAMA reported a 23% increase in cases of violence against women.

While violence and abuse is rife, it remains grossly under reported, because often there is no one to whom Afghan women and girls can report these crimes.  Violence can not be stemmed unless women are protected and they can not be protected without police who can properly defend their safety and their rights.

Simply, Afghan women need Afghan women police. Currently, just over one per cent of the Afghan National Police (ANP) are women, or one for every 10,000 women. With only 1,700 in the entire country, most Afghan women will never see a female police office, let alone be able to turn to one for help. In 3 provinces there are still no female police at all. If women had greater access to women police, they would be more likely to report crimes and be able to access justice.

Increasing the number of women police, and ensuring they play a real, visible and active role in the community, is fundamental to making headway on the protection of Afghan women and their rights.

In September last year, Oxfam released the report Women and the Afghan Police, urging the Afghan Government and international community to prioritise the recruitment, training, retention and protection of women in the Afghan National Police as a key solution to eliminating violence against women.

Since then, progress has been made. The Ministry of Interior has made a public commitment to a (very optimistic) target of 10,000 women police by the end of the year, and in February, Afghanistan’s first female district police chief was appointed in Kabul.

However, the upcoming elections also show us there is still a long way to go.

Because of the severe lack of women in the security sector, the Afghan Government has been forced to hire over 12,000 women (drawn from civil society organisations and public servants) and train them in basic security and searching methods to allow women to exercise their right to vote on April 5 and protect the safety of all Afghans on polling day.

One month out, these women are yet to be trained and time is running out.

As Afghanistan approaches transition, now is the time to make sure there are more women, in genuine roles, in the police force. This will make a real difference to the lives of Afghan women and ensure the gains that have been made towards women's rights do not slip away.