HRW: Policewomen face workplace harassment
KABUL (PAN): Workplace sexual harassment is a serious problem in Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, with female police officers frequently facing such situations, an international human rights group said on Thursday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) referred to numerous media reports about rape of female police officers by male colleagues in recent years. The lack of safe and separate toilets made women particularly vulnerable, the organisation said in a statement.
The government was urged to take immediate action to ensure that female police officers had access to separate, safe and lockable restroom facilities in police stations.
Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said: “The Afghan government’s failure to provide female police officers with safe, secure facilities makes them more vulnerable to abuse. This is not just about toilets. It’s about the government’s recognition that women have a crucial role to play in law enforcement.”
While calling harassment an everyday experience for many Afghan women, Adams said: “Without the consistent presence of female police officers across the country, legal protections for women will remain an unfulfilled promise.”
HRW quoted an international advisor working with Afghan policewomen as saying sexual assaults often occurred in isolated locations such as unsafe toilets and changing areas: “Those facilities that women do have access to often have peepholes or doors which don’t lock. Women have to go [to the toilets] in pairs. Toilets are a site of harassment.”
Few police stations in Afghanistan have safe and accessible toilets, according to experts working with female police officers. Female officers have to use toilets shared with men. Such facilities are unsafe and stigmatising in a culture where strict segregation of the sexes is the norm.
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