HRW to Karzai: Do more to defend women’s rights
KABUL (PAN): An international rights group on Friday asked the Afghan government to adopt strong measures to protect women’s rights ahead of withdrawal of foreign combat forces from the country at the end of 2014.
For the first time, on July 10, Afghanistan is scheduled to appear before the United Nations committee that will review its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Several incidents in recent weeks have increased concerns about the government’s commitment to women’s rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, recalling President Hamid Karzai told women’s rights activists in May that he was unable to support further efforts to protect a law against violence against women.
Also in May, an effort to gain parliamentary approval for a key law on violence against women ended in shambles, and the lower house of parliament voted to abolish a set-aside for women on provincial councils, the rights group added.
Asia Director at HRW Brad Adams said: “President Karzai needs to understand just how high the stakes are for Afghanistan in the debate over women’s rights. Donors should be clear that if Afghanistan doesn’t defend women’s rights, the money will no longer flow for the army or the police.”
Karzai had expressed his inability do more to protect the 2009 Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law), advising women’s rights activists to stop advocating for stronger enforcement of the law, a statement from the New York-based organisation said.
Several members of Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, have expressed increasing hostility toward women’s rights and appear to be making a concerted effort to roll rights protections back, Human Rights Watch said.
It added a Wolesi Jirga debate over EVAW Law was halted after only 15 minutes when several parliamentarians called for changes to the law, including abolishing the minimum age for marriage for girls. In ensuing days, several protests were held in major cities calling for repeal of the EVAW Law.
HRW resented the Wolesi Jirga’s decision on a revising the electoral law and abolishing the 25 percent of seats in each of the 34 provincial councils reserved for female candidates. But the Meshrano Jirga reinserted the language providing a set-aside for women on provincial councils.
“The parliamentarians attacking laws affecting women’s rights are the same ones who, a month ago, said that 9-year-old girls are old enough to marry,” Adams said. “President Karzai and both houses of parliament should not allow those extremely hostile to women’s rights to destroy 12 years of progress for women and their future hopes.”
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