EU concerned over new shelter regulations
Catherine Ashton, who is the foreign affairs chief of the EU, said she was concerned by the proposed changes in the regulation of shelters, which offer refuge to women fleeing physical abuse and forced marriages.
“I recognise that there is a need to provide monitoring and oversight of the shelters and to set up standards and guidelines for the services in the women's protection shelters,” Ashton said in a statement.
“However, a coherent and coordinated approach is needed that would guarantee and secure the continued and uninterrupted work of women's protection shelters, which is currently being carried out by the civil society organizations.
“I therefore encourage the government to support these organizations, and so help to promote the protection of women's rights in Afghanistan generally."
Last week, the acting Minister of Women’s Affairs Husn Bano Ghazanfar said her ministry would oversee the running and management of 11 registered shelters in Afghanistan. She accused them of being mismanaged, corrupt and failing to provide women with their legal rights to health and liberty. Some women were even forced to come to the shelters, she said.
The government has also announced it is working on a new regulation which would govern all groups working on behalf of women in Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai has defended the move, saying the government would only take over those shelters which were running inefficiently.
"What we are doing is in accordance with the constitution and human rights; we are trying to do something that will reduce the pain and problems of women," he told reporters at a press conference on Saturday.
Women’s groups have questioned whether the government has the capacity to run the shelters or protect the women living there.
The EU statement follows a similar one by the US which also expressed support for the independent running of women’s shelters.
"In light of the progress that the Afghan government has achieved in advancing women's rights over the past decade, we encourage the government to support the humanitarian work of shelter organisations," the US State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said on Friday.
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