Human rights activists call for end to violence against women in Afghanistan

A woman speaks during a Global Open Days event on 22 October 2019 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: UNAMA / Fardin Waezi

24 Dec 2019

Human rights activists call for end to violence against women in Afghanistan

GHAZNI - In a UN-backed radio programme broadcast from Afghanistan’s south-eastern province of Ghazni, rights activists and other community leaders urged audiences to step up their efforts to eradicate violence against women.

In the panel-style discussion, participants who were brought together by UNAMA’s Gardez regional office in Ghazni’s capital discussed the roles different community groups can play in raising their voices to support and protect women’s rights in Afghanistan.

“If a religious leader talks about an issue, people will listen,” said Sayed Nasrat Froton, a human rights activist, noting that religious scholars amplify important messages about women’s rights and bring about positive change for women and girls in their communities.

Froton went on to stress the importance of Afghanistan’s formal justice system in addressing cases of violence against women. “Mediation through traditional mechanisms are inadequate at best; formal justice systems, when working properly, can find solutions to cases of violence against women,” he said.

Another panellist, Azada Najibi, a women’s rights activist, highlighted the correlation between violence against women and education, and stressed the importance of vocational opportunities.

“People with employment in Afghanistan, living happy lives, tend to be less angry with each other and usually exhibit more tolerance,” said Najibi. “They usually are more willing to listen to the underlying logic of the importance of ending all forms of violence against women.”

Najibi described how the root cause of violence against women can be traced to education and underscored the importance of parental tutelage. “Parents should educate their children about human rights, as the future of our new generation is in their hands,” Najibi stressed.

Nazia Amiri, another panellist, offered similar views, stating that awareness and understanding are central to eliminating violence against women in Afghanistan. “Raising public awareness about the rights of women and girls is crucial in decreasing this odious phenomenon,” stressed Amiri. “If we really want to decrease violence against women, laws must be equally and blindly applied to everyone.”

The panel participants jointly called for investing in women’s education to address the main obstacles that hinder their full participation in Afghanistan’s social, political and economic life, and focused especially on the importance of raising awareness across the nation about protecting women’s rights.

The discussion also touched on harmful traditional practices – which include child marriage, forced marriage, the giving away of girls to settle disputes, forced isolation in the home and ‘honour’ killings – as barriers to the full empowerment of women.

Afghanistan has made strides in addressing women’s rights with legislation and in other areas, but much remains to be achieved as Afghan women continue face violence and discrimination. Many structural barriers – including poverty, inequality, illiteracy, harmful traditional practices and violent extremism – make women, especially those in remote provinces, especially susceptible to violence and abuse.

The United Nations maintains that alongside effective legal and institutional mechanisms for women’s access to justice, stopping violence against women requires an effort from everyone, not only acting but also speaking out against violence in homes, workplaces and social settings.

The panel discussion was broadcast by local radio to audiences estimated at tens of thousands of listeners in and around Ghazni’s. Ghazni is situated in the country’s south-eastern region. The province’s terrain, like many other areas of Afghanistan, is mountainous and interspersed with seasonal river valleys. It is populated mostly by rural, agricultural communities.

UNAMA continues to work with advocacy groups and institutions – including religious leaders, youth groups, women’s groups and local media outlets – to create platforms, using radio, social media and television, to enable Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.