New documentary and round-tables highlight the violence faced by Afghan women

25 Nov 2012

New documentary and round-tables highlight the violence faced by Afghan women

KABUL - United Nations in Afghanistan marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women today by screening a UNAMA-produced video documentary amidst a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, and by organizing radio and television round-tables in different parts of the country.

Click here for photos of the documentary screening and media round-tables
UN Women page: “In Focus: Let’s End Violence against Women”

Both the 30-minute documentary “Ten Years On: The Elimination of Violence Against Women” and the media roundtables highlighted various forms of violence the Afghan women have faced over the past decade despite some improvements.

The Kabul ceremony was attended by Government officials, representatives of national and international non-governmental organizations, women activists and journalists.

Speaking at a panel discussion that followed the screening, Alka Sadaat, the director of the documentary, said the time has come for the Afghan women to break their silence and raise their voices.

Ms. Sadaat lamented that women in some Afghan families are treated like goods, and “they don’t get the love and affection they deserve”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his report to the Security Council in September that harmful traditional practices, “particularly affecting women and girls”, remain endemic in Afghanistan. In a statement in July this year, the UN Women said with increased cases of violence against women being reported by Afghanistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, “it is vital that the important gains made for and with women over the past decade are advanced and sustained and women are fully engaged in charting the future of Afghanistan”.

In his message to mark the Day which is also the start of a 16-day global campaign against violence against women, Secretary-General Ban called on world leaders to “make good” on pledges they have made to end violence against women, a scourge that affects millions of women and girls worldwide.

Up to seven in ten women continue to be targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is still not a crime, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet said in her message.

In today’s ceremony in Kabul, religious scholar Sediq Muslim called upon the Ulema (religious scholars) to play their pivotal role in raising awareness on elimination of violence against women. He said Islam has given women their due right but people don’t have proper understanding of the Islamic provisions on women’s right. “Violence against women in Afghanistan is not due to illiteracy but due to bad literacy,” said Mr. Muslim.

Maria Bashir, Afghanistan’s first female prosecutor from Herat province in the country’s west, said 25 November is the day for the Government of Afghanistan and its international partners to renew their pledge for rule of law in Afghanistan and the belief that the women can play significant role in the development of the country. “Unfortunately, support towards right of women is still not being pursued as a political agenda,” she lamented, while calling for more job opportunities for the Afghan women.

Journalist Mehdi Sami hailed the role of media in raising awareness on women’s rights but stressed more campaigns were essential since violence against women had become "systematic" in Afghanistan. He said the violence against women stemmed from high rate of illiteracy in the country and called on the Ulema to play their part in raising awareness. “We have laws but not the mentality to implement them,” said Mr. Sami. “We should not behave with human rights and women’s right as a project but rather take it as our core responsibilities.”

Speaking on the occasion, UNAMA Human Rights Officer Abul Ahrar Ramizpoor said UNAMA had documented numerous challenges in implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law in its annual report on violence against women since 2009 and had been engaged in advocacy activities with its partner organizations. He pointed out some exemplary work of the Afghan Government in pursuing certain cases of violence against women, but also called on the Government to apply the law to everyone evenly.

“Fortunately, the Government of Afghanistan has commitment with the United Nations over the international conventions for human rights and these have been integrated into the Afghan Constitution and other state policies,” said Mr. Ramizpoor. However, he said the Government needed to do more.

Stressing that women’s problems in Afghanistan have become “chronic and complex” with the women losing husbands and sons in war and facing violence at home, UNAMA’s Communications Director Massoummeh Torfeh called on the media to undertake “systematic campaigning” to address the problem.

Jalalabad: ‘Illiteracy and lack of education fueling violence against women’

In eastern regional hub of Jalalabad, UNAMA facilitated a round-table discussion highlighting the problem of violence against women. It was aired by state-run radio and television.

Sabrina (one name) from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who is one of the panel members in the discussion, said cases of violence against women was rampant because of illiteracy. She said forced marriage, underage marriage, beating and threatening to kill are the key acts of violence, and attributed this to poverty, migration and displacement.

Muhtarama Amin, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, said the root cause of the violence is lack of awareness about the Afghan laws and the rights of women guaranteed by the Islam. Another member of the panel, Dr Naimatullah Hamdar from the Civil Society and Human Rights Network said the international and national rights organizations could play key role in raising awareness and educating the people.

Kunduz: ‘Judges committed to protect women’s rights’

About 100 Governmental officials, religious scholars, women, youth, journalists, human rights activists and members of the international community gathered in the northeastern city of Kunduz to mark the Day.

Speaking on the occasion, Mawlawi Najmuddin, a judge in the Kunduz Appeals Court, said the judges were committed to continue “our efforts to protect women’s rights”. He called on the religious scholars to raise public awareness through mosque pulpits on women’s rights from the prospective of Islam, Afghanistan constitution and the EVAW law.

Also in Kunduz, a private television and radio stations (Khawar and Jaihoon respectively) broadcast a round-table discussion on the topic featuring a religious scholar, a women’s rights activist and a community elder.

Gardez: ‘Message against violence against women gets across 350,000 people’

In the southeastern city of Gardez, another round-table discussion featuring local activists and officials was aired by local radio and television channels. Paktya National Radio and Television broadcast the programme today will re-broadcast tomorrow, directly reaching out to 80,000 people and indirectly conveying the message to about 350,000 people.

A separate ceremony held in Gardez saw about 250 people participate in a public programme highlighting the problem of violence against women and the need to address this.

(Click here for UNAMA coverage of more events on the elimination of violence against women across Afghanistan)

-Compiled by UNAMA Kabul