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    Gilani wants women’s shelters closed

    KABUL (PAN): Although rights activists have been calling for an increase in women's shelters in Kabul, the Afghan Women’s Association on Sunday said the centres were against Islamic teachings and should be closed.

    Set up by NGOs, the shelters started operating in the country in 2002. Currently, there are three such centres in Kabul and a dozen in other provinces. The protection houses operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

    Ministry officials say 200 women, who have fled homes due to domestic violence, are living in Kabul shelters and another 50 women in provinces.

    Afghan Women’s Union head, Suraya Parleka, says the shelters are good to resolve women's problems. “When there were no centres for their protection, women would face abuse at homes, “she said, adding since most activities are carried out by females. 

    But Fatana Gilani, the Afghan Women’s Association chief, believes setting up such houses is no solution to women’s problems. Instead the centres had added to their problems, she claimed.

    Her organisation had urged President Hamid Karzai to close down the centres, but the demand remained unmet, she deplored. "Women’s life  in these centres is contrary to Islam," she said, adding a female could resolve her problem at home, but not at a shelter.

    "A woman who goes to a shelter lives without her father, mother, brothers, sisters and other relative," Gilani added.

    The existence of shelter houses encouraged women and girls to flee their homes, believed Qazi Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, a religious scholar and political analyst.

    But Fauzia Amini, deputy minister of women’s affairs, insisted the centres were being run in line with the ministry’s rules and regulations. "All the regulations are in accordance with Islamic teachings and women are safe there," she said.

    Inmates of the centres attended different vocational training programmes, such as literacy, tailoring, embroidery and English learning, she said. Since the shelters had been useful, the ministry planned to set up more such centres in other provinces, she indicated.

    In Nuristan, Kandahar, Khost and some other provinces, such centres were yet to be set up, the deputy minister explained. Despite efforts, this reporter was not allowed to talk to women living in the shelters because of strict rules.

    frm/ma/mud