|Members of Afghan activist group Young Women for Change/copyright AP|
Enough! Stop violence against women in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been called the most dangerous place to be born a girl. Violence against girls and women is endemic. From beatings behind closed doors to targeted attacks on brave women human rights defenders speaking out in public, anything goes. The majority of these crimes go unpunished. Instead, victims are often punished for committing 'moral crimes' like running from abusive relationships, attempting to protect their children from a violent father.
"I work mostly on cases where women have been accused of 'moral crimes', like running away from home after being abused, or where women want to free their children from an abusive father…,” says Masiha Faiz of Medica Mondiale. “The police and courts don’t want us to defend these victims. They will hide the cases and try to send the women back without investigating. A woman’s word isn’t worth anything to them."
The killing of a young Afghan woman by her father in front of a large crowd last week - on the grounds that she had “dishonoured” the family - is yet another example of the shocking violence against women and further proof that the authorities are failing to tackle it.
The woman, who has two children, was shot dead last Monday (22 April) by her father in front of a crowd of about 300 people in the village of Kookchaheel, in the Aabkamari district of Badghis province in north-western Afghanistan, according to an Amnesty International report issued today.
The woman, named Halima, who was believed to be between 18 and 20 years old, was accused of running away with a cousin while her husband was in Iran. Her cousin returned Halima to her relatives ten days after running away with her. His whereabouts are unknown.
The killing came after three of the village’s religious leaders, allegedly linked to the Taliban, issued a fatwa (religious edict) that Halima should be killed publicly, after her father sought their advice about his daughter’s elopement. Halima’s father and the three religious council members who issued the fatwa have reportedly gone into hiding. The local police say they are investigating the case, but no one has yet been arrested in connection with the killing.
Amnesty International’s Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq said: “The deeply shocking practice of women being subjected to violent ‘punishments’, including killing, publicly or privately, must end. The authorities across Afghanistan must ensure that perpetrators of violence against women are brought to justice."
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) documented more than 4,000 cases of violence against women in a six-month period last year (21 March-21 October 2012) - a rise of 28% compared with the same period in the previous year. The AIHRC has also criticised the Afghan police in Baghdis for recruiting suspected perpetrators of such violence, including a Taliban commander and his 20 men implicated in the stoning to death of 45-year-old widow Bibi Sanuber for alleged adultery in 2010.
In August 2009, Afghanistan passed the Elimination of Violence againstWomen Law, which criminalises forced marriage, rape, beatings and other acts of violence against women.
“Afghanistan’s law for the elimination of violence against women is a very positive step, but it will not be useful unless it is properly enforced - something we haven’t seen so far,” said AI's Mosadiq.Amnesty is calling for people to ask their MPs to stand up with women in Afghanistan and pressure the UK Government to support practical steps to tackle the abuse – steps like supporting women’s shelters or facilitating specially trained domestic abuse representatives in the police force.
With international troops leaving next year, peace negotiations with the Taliban and upcoming Presidential elections, it is a critical time for Afghanistan. “We need our Government to act now to ensure gains made since the fall of the Taliban are not lost, and that women are protected from violence in all its forms,” says Amnesty.
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