UN Afghanistan: Condemn all forms of violence against women and girls

30 Nov 2009

UN Afghanistan: Condemn all forms of violence against women and girls

KABUL - The United Nations in Afghanistan today underlined the importance of Afghanistan’s participation in the international “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence.” Press conference transcript in Dari | Pashto

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stressed that the 16-day campaign is “an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to challenge the routine human rights violations and related violence that women endure” in the country.

“This international campaign, which runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, the International Human Rights Day, is an important reminder that women’s rights are human rights,” said Norah Niland, UNAMA’s head of Human Rights.

Speaking at the weekly UNAMA press conference Ms Niland stressed that “it is important to publicly and explicitly condemn all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Some 60 to 80 per cent of all marriages are forced and underage, and approximately 57 per cent of girls marry before the age of 16 – the legal age for marriage in Afghanistan – due to customary practices, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Afghanistan also ranks second highest in the world in terms of maternal mortality rate, with one woman dying every 27 minutes due to pregnancy-related conditions – around 25,000 deaths per annum.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Commit – Act – Demand: We CAN End Violence Against Women!”

“It is equally important to build an environment that inhibits rape and holds perpetrators to account,” said Ms Niland, adding that the 25 November to 10 December campaign is “an opportunity to support local initiatives and to draw and build on our current work at the global level to end violence against women.”

“Additionally, this campaign period is an opportunity to reflect on and evaluate efforts so that ongoing or future strategies benefit from, and build on, prior experience,” she said, pointing out that “the UN and its various partners in and outside the government are working year-round to increase awareness of the harm that victims and their families endure when subjected to violence.”

Ms Niland added that UNAMA is also taking action “to give effect to the commitments inherent in Afghanistan’s international human rights treaty obligations, as well as a host of action plans and initiatives geared to countering, as well as responding to, specific acts of violence – whether these occurred in or outside the home.”

“Public reporting, whether by the UN, NGOs, media as well as, of course, the AIHRC who cannot join us today, can play an important role in highlighting trends or specific cases and deterring acts of violence,” she urged, stressing that “there is strong evidence to suggest that silence helps perpetuate violence.”

UNAMA is urging Afghans to start their own human rights campaigns “at home, with parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.”

“Democracy and peace in Afghanistan is dependent on the elimination of violence and the full participation of women, as well as men, in decision-making processes that affects the lives of individuals and the future of the nation,” said Ms Niland.

A UNAMA report launched earlier this year – entitled “Silence is Violence: End the Abuse of Women in Afghanistan” – found that violence targeted at women and girls is widespread and deeply rooted in Afghan society and cultural norms, and that even if such violence is not openly condoned, neither is it adequately challenged nor condemned by society at large or by state institutions.

By Aurora V. Alambra, UNAMA

Website: Human Rights Day – 10 December 2009