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November 26, 2019

Afghanistan must do more to stop violence against women: UN


November 26, 2019

KABUL: Afghan authorities must do more to counter violence against women across the patriarchal nation, the United Nations said on Monday as it marked the international day for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

The theme of this year’s observance is ending sexual violence and rape, a massive problem in Afghanistan where many women are still routinely mistreated and attacked because of their gender.

“Ongoing impunity and the pervasive normalisation of sexual and gender-based violence must end,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

In a statement, UNAMA credited the Afghan government and prosecutors for increased efforts to hold the perpetrators of sexual assault and rape to account.

“Doing so sends the signal that such behaviour is criminal and unacceptable,” the statement read.

But Aleta Miller, country representative of UN-Women in Afghanistan, stressed that more work needs to be done and said the government should review a law aimed at reducing violence against women.

According to new research released over the weekend by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the rate of violence against women increased in recent months. The commission recorded 2,762 incidents during the period of March-October, a rise of 8.2 percent over the same timeframe a year earlier.

Most assaults (37.7 percent) took the form of verbal or psychological violence, while physical abuse accounted for 26 percent of all cases. The AIHRC tallied only 123 cases of sexual violence, likely just a tiny fraction of actual incidents, as many women are afraid to come forward.

Heather Barr, the acting co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, said under-reporting of violence against women is an issue in almost every country. But in Afghanistan, such under-reporting is “extreme” due to a combination of factors “including the poor response by the justice system, lack of female police officers, lack of access to shelter for women and girls who need to flee abuse... (and the) lack of other forms of protection for victims of violence,” Barr told AFP. While women have made significant gains since the days of the Taliban, they still are subject to deeply held sexist beliefs that persist across Afghanistan.

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