Afghan Government’s Takeover of Women’s Shelters Adds Insult to Injury

 

 

By Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher.

The recent move by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) to take control of women’s shelters is deeply worrying.  I have spoken to NGO workers who run these shelters, and they have been outraged by the new legislation.

Over the past few years I have personally been able to see the work of five of these shelters out of a total of 14 set up around the country by NGOs after the Taleban’s fall. The shelters house hundreds of Afghan women and girls whose lives are at risk due to forced marriage, underaged marriage, and other forms of violence.

Amnesty International urges the Afghan government to reconsider this terrible piece of legislation and, instead, recommit itself to protecting the women of Afghanistan and those courageous human rights defenders, many of them women, who are trying to counteract years of discrimination and sexual violence against the women of Afghanistan.

As an Afghan woman I was extremely proud of the work of my colleagues in establishing these shelters, despite lack of resources, cultural prejudices, and intimidation. Intimidation, from the family members of the women seeking shelter, from the government, from political figures supposedly allied with the government, and from the Taleban and other anti-government groups.

In one case, in 2008, the founder of one of the NGOs running a shelter was effectively detained for a full day by high officials in the Attorney General’s office, simply because she was trying to resolve a case of domestic violence that affected the family of a government official.

Now, instead of supporting the efforts of these brave Afghan women, the MoWA legislation tries to take control of the running of the shelters, and oversee who is eligible for protection via an eight-person admission panel stacked with representatives from government ministries.

The legislation also introduces a requirement of a ‘forensic medical examination’ if requested by the admission panel, a term referring to the examination that women are subjected to when accused of adultery – a criminal offense in Afghanistan.

This test examines women for evidence of sexual activity – not to protect them in case of sexual abuse, or gather evidence against their abusers, but rather to see if they are somehow morally at fault, and therefore, subject to prosecution!

The women who run the shelters rightly see the MoWA legislation as an insulting provision that will re-victimise women. It could even be an avenue that is open to abuse for those in power who wish to put these vulnerable women behind bars for ‘adultery’.

The admission panel itself will not only complicate the process and deny protection to women and girls who need it, but also raise the very serious risk that women who have fled abuse by those with government connections will be put at even more risk, and be sent back to more abuse.

The panel will consist of representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Supreme Court, General Attorney’s Office, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, Ministry of Public Health, and Ministry of Justice, A civil society representative appointed by MoWA will make the final decision.

The legislation has clearly not been designed to guarantee the wellbeing and protection of vulnerable women.  Not only does it insult them and increase intrusive government control over their fate, it fails to mention any guarantee or monitoring of wellbeing or protection for the women and girls if they are taken into care by their relatives or discharged from the shelters.

The Afghan government and MoWA should repeal this new legislation and let the NGOs who know better than anyone how to care for and support women at risk to do their jobs.

If the Afghan government really wants to be more supportive of vulnerable women, it should provide better funding to the shelters instead of restricting their work.

As originally posted on Livewire.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

10 thoughts on “Afghan Government’s Takeover of Women’s Shelters Adds Insult to Injury

  1. Ridiculous!!!! Outrageous!!!! Should be condemned!!!! Aluta Continua!! God Our Lord, Defender of the weak and Provider of the poor come to these women's rescue.

  2. Those poor women. We must tie our aid $$ to the government's attitude toward women. If they do not treat women with respect and humanity, we must not give the government any aid. I want us out of there, anyway. It's a huge expensive mess that we can't manage and we can't afford.

  3. Ridiculous!!!! Outrageous!!!! Should be condemned!!!! Aluta Continua!! God Our Lord, Defender of the weak and Provider of the poor come to these women’s rescue.

  4. Those poor women. We must tie our aid $$ to the government’s attitude toward women. If they do not treat women with respect and humanity, we must not give the government any aid. I want us out of there, anyway. It’s a huge expensive mess that we can’t manage and we can’t afford.

  5. It is sad to witness such discrimination in form of male superiority and female inferiority subject to receive mercy from men who would decide how they have to live. Freedom from threats of dark and illiteracy is not something that should be given by any male figure to a woman. These are every ones fundamental rights. Gender, race, religion etc…. should not be the measure for considering one superior and in control and the other in chain……If Mr. Karzaie claims that he is trying to promote democracy in Afghanistan, in action he is not promoting anything to the people of Afghanistan but more restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, press etc…. He completely ignores the other half of the society " women and children" and encourages certain ministries to pass laws which would farther oppress women and put children in danger of witnessing an abusive behavior toward their mothers, sisters and sometimes themselves with no protection of law . After all these are voices that no one would hear, screams that have been silenced by unjust manners and cruel laws. The question remains How to restrain such an unleashed power and free every one that is discriminated under these barbaric laws of jungle. That is up to our administration to demand certain things and withhold our aid unless these satanic creatures change their behavior and treat every one equal regardless of their race, gender,religion etc…..

  6. It is sad to witness such discrimination in form of male superiority and female inferiority subject to receive mercy from men who would decide how they have to live. Freedom from threats of dark and illiteracy is not something that should be given by any male figure to a woman. These are every ones fundamental rights. Gender, race, religion etc…. should not be the measure for considering one superior and in control and the other in chain……If Mr. Karzaie claims that he is trying to promote democracy in Afghanistan, in action he is not promoting anything to the people of Afghanistan but more restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, press etc…. He completely ignores the other half of the society ” women and children” and encourages certain ministries to pass laws which would farther oppress women and put children in danger of witnessing an abusive behavior toward their mothers, sisters and sometimes themselves with no protection of law . After all these are voices that no one would hear, screams that have been silenced by unjust manners and cruel laws. The question remains How to restrain such an unleashed power and free every one that is discriminated under these barbaric laws of jungle. That is up to our administration to demand certain things and withhold our aid unless these satanic creatures change their behavior and treat every one equal regardless of their race, gender,religion etc…..

  7. Our leaders should bring all power to bear on behalf of these women and children. We petitioned Congress back several years ago to help free them from the Taliban's inhumane clutches to no avail. Women and children are everybit as "human" as the males regardless what their "religions" and customs dictate. It is at the level of cruelty and inhumanity that we need to speak up by withholding ALL AID to any country condoning such actions whereby women and children will be further endangered.

    We would probably have Bin Laden in our custody right now IF the women of Afghanistan had any faith that they would be protected if they told and if they knew of the reward and could count on refuge as well from their male tribal elders, etc. if found out. They have probably had to have had a part in feeding him.

  8. Our leaders should bring all power to bear on behalf of these women and children. We petitioned Congress back several years ago to help free them from the Taliban’s inhumane clutches to no avail. Women and children are everybit as “human” as the males regardless what their “religions” and customs dictate. It is at the level of cruelty and inhumanity that we need to speak up by withholding ALL AID to any country condoning such actions whereby women and children will be further endangered.

    We would probably have Bin Laden in our custody right now IF the women of Afghanistan had any faith that they would be protected if they told and if they knew of the reward and could count on refuge as well from their male tribal elders, etc. if found out. They have probably had to have had a part in feeding him.