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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 01:44 GMT
No 'real change' for Afghan women
By Pam O'Toole
BBC News

Two women clad in burqas wait for a bus in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Millions of Afghan women still face discrimination, the report says
An international women's rights group says guarantees given to Afghan women after the fall of the Taleban in 2001 have not translated into real change.

Womankind Worldwide says millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face systematic discrimination and violence in their households and communities.

The report admits that there have been some legal, civil and constitutional gains for Afghan women.

But serious challenges remain and need to be addressed urgently, it states.

These include challenges to women's safety, realisation of civil and political rights and status.

Self-harming

Womankind Worldwide sent a film crew to Afghanistan to investigate the situation of women there.

They found a young Afghan woman crying in hospital who said she wanted to die. She was recovering after setting fire to herself.

Womankind Worldwide says there has been a dramatic rise in cases of self-immolation by Afghan women since 2003.

When I am at home sometimes I feel as though someone is choking me
Afghan woman

It believes many are the result of forced marriages, thought to account for about 60% to 80% of all Afghan marriages.

57% of girls are married before the legal marriage age of 16.

Domestic violence remains widespread.

At an Afghan women's shelter, a young woman told the film crew that she came to the shelter to forget life's troubles.

"I come here so I can ease the pain a little. When I am at home sometimes I feel as though someone is choking me," she told the film crew.

Womankind Worldwide says the Afghan authorities rarely investigate women's complaints of violent attacks.

Women reporting rape run the risk of being imprisoned for having sexual intercourse outside marriage.

Unfulfilled promises

Although women now hold more than 25% of the seats in the Afghan parliament, female politicians and activists often face intimidation or even violence.

Burqa clad Afghan women with their children in front of the Darlaman Palace in Kabul
Afghan women need international protection, the report says

"Women who are standing up to defend women's' rights are not being protected," says Brita Fernandes Schmidt of Womankind Worldwide.

"My message, really, to the international community is: you need to address specific security issues for women," she says.

"Women's rights activists are getting killed, women's NGO workers are getting killed, and that is not going to change unless some drastic action is taken," Ms Fernandes continues.

Womankind Worldwide says the international community needs to fulfil promises made after the fall of the Taleban to help protect Afghan women.

It says the international community should give women a greater voice in setting the aid and reconstruction agenda.

Until basic rights are granted to Afghan women in practice as well as on paper, the report says, it could not be said that the status of Afghan women had changed significantly in the past five years.


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