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Afghan Women: After Eight Years of War

It has been eight years since the Taliban has theoretically been removed from power, yet women’s rights have not improved for the larger population.  In 2004 the Constitution proclaimed equality for sexes under the law, yet abuse, rape, arrests, and inadequate schooling for women are still issues that have not been fixed.  The United Kingdom’s The Guardian stated that 52% of women are affected by physical violence, while only 17% of women disclosed instances of sexual violence. Human Rights Watch claims that the majority of women held in Afghan prisons were accused of “moral crimes,” which include adultery or running away from one’s home or from a spouse. Half of the marriages within the state are of women 16 years or younger, which is illegal under the law, and in 80% of marriages the young wife does not consent.  In April of 2009, President Karzai signed a bill that gave sexual control to married men, essentially legalizing rape within a marriage.  The law also allowed the husband to deny the wife food if she does not consent to sexual acts every four days and did not allow divorce or guardianship of their children.  Under pressure from foreign diplomats, Karzai reviewed the bill, altered it slightly, and reinstated it as a law with few outside objections.

Farangis Najibullah of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty stated that another bill has been presently in the works for many years by Afghan activists, yet changing centuries of tradition for the men and women of the country will be a large feat.  Since 2004, the gender discrimination law was passed, yet women are still beaten by husbands, not allowed out of their homes, and scorned in public.  Activist MP Fawzia Kofi states that, “I believe all our leaders want democracy for their neighbours, and not themselves.” Women have mentioned that Afghan citizens believe that this new law may not have any changing effect in the patriarchal society.  Ann Jones, a journalist for The Nation and author of “Remember the Women?” spent eight years working with Afghan women.  She states that Afghan women are more concerned with their physical safety then their rights.  Women in the past who have tried to participate in political discourse have been assassinated or have had family members, most commonly their husbands, assassinated.

Although the recent insurgency of troops and Obama’s updated security system have made mainstream news; however, information concerning the plight of the Afghan women and the brutality they still face even after the fall of the Taliban remains under reported.  Seventy percent of the women living in Afghanistan are illiterate and living in poverty; therefore, they have no real way of achieving success without the help of the government.  The increase in numbers of schools for women has been hailed by both Afghani and western politicians as a positive change, yet young women make up only 11% of the population. Humans Rights Watch recommend in the Women’s Rights in Afghanistan (2009), that the Afghan government, International donors, and the Supreme Court publicly condemn and hold those accountable for their actions against women, increase schooling, and administer justice in order for the women to survive.

Student Researchers: Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, Tom Rich

Student Evaluator: Meryl Altman, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, DePauw University

Student Instructor: Kevin Howley

Sources:

NPR: Observers: Plight of Afghan women are often overlooked

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120049497&sc=emaf


Afghanistan-Online: The Plight of Afghan women

http://www.afghan-web.com/woman/bill_crime_descrim.html

The UK Guardian: Plight of Afghan women may worsen as war effort is stepped up, warns report

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/07/afghanistan-women-plight-may-worsen

BBC: What are we fighting for?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8195000/8195678.stm

Human Rights Watch: We Have the Promise

http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/12/03/we-have-promises-world

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