[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Afghan warlords 'threaten women'
By Andrew North
BBC correspondent in Kabul

Afghan women in burqas
Women make up more than 40% of the electorate
Threats on women by the Taleban and warlords are undermining their participation in Afghanistan's upcoming elections, a human rights group says.

The US-based Human Rights Watch says in a report that very few women have registered to vote on Saturday in areas where the Taleban are active.

The report says even campaign workers have received death threats for raising women's issues.

More than 40% of Afghanistan's 10.5 million registered voters are women.

The US government has claimed that the rights of Afghan women have improved after the Taleban were removed in 2001.

The Human Rights Watch report offers little hope from Saturday's election.

It says very few women are expected to turn out to cast their ballots on polling day.

Sensitive issue

The report highlights instances where campaign workers have been harassed and received death threats for raising women's rights issues, such as making it easier for them to divorce.

Education is also very important... This is a male-dominated country and men should change their minds towards the women
Habiba Sarabi, women's affairs minister

Such an issue remains highly sensitive and most of the candidates running for the election, including President Hamid Karzai, have done their best to avoid it.

There is no doubt that life has got better for Afghan women with the removal of the Taleban and their harsh restrictions.

More than a million girls are now at school.

Many are working, all of this underpinned by a new constitution enshrining equal rights with men.

But for many women, things have barely changed.

Many are still not allowed to work by their families, while many suffer violence at the hands of husbands and other relatives.

Far too often, they find the authorities unable or unwilling to protect them because of deep-rooted social attitudes.

Afghanistan's Women's Affairs Minister Habiba Sarabi says stronger laws are not enough.

"Education is also very, very important. It's a fundamental thing. Changing attitudes of men, rather than women, because this is a male-dominated country and men should change their minds towards the women," she says.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific