Afghan women at risk: HRW

2009-12-07 18:31
Kabul - The Afghan government is failing to protect women from endemic violence such as rape and murder and from rampant discrimination, and their plight risks getting worse, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The US-based group urged world powers to stay focussed on women's rights in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama deploys an extra 30 000 US troops to fight the resurgent Taliban.

"Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, women and girls suffer high levels of violence and discrimination, and have poor access to justice and education," HRW said in a 96-page report.

"The Afghan government has also failed to bring killers of prominent women in public life to justice, creating an environment of impunity for those who target women," it said.

Banned from public life under the iron-fisted Taliban regime from 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion, women still struggle for their rights in the impoverished, deeply conservative and war-torn country.

Gains under threat

HRW said gains made since 2001 in areas such as education, work and freedom of movement are under serious threat as the Taliban insurgency gains ground and fundamentalist factions in government gain in strength.

"The situation for Afghan women and girls is dire and could deteriorate," said Rachel Reid, Afghanistan researcher at HRW.

The rights group highlighted a catalogue of abuse of women - death threats and intimidation, murders of several high-profile figures, gang rape and young girls being forced into marriage.

But it said the attitude of the courts or police was often hostile towards women, with the government failing to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice.

In addition, it said, "studies suggest that more than half the women and girls in detention are being held for 'moral crimes', such as adultery or running away from home".

HRW said it was vital that the rights of female Afghans were not neglected by the government and the international community "while the world focuses on the Obama administration's new security strategy".

"Women are not a priority for our own government or the international community," female lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail was quoted as saying. "We've been forgotten."

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