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    Women rally in Kabul to push for legal rights

    KABUL (PAN): Women and girls, holding banners in their hands, on Tuesday staged a rally in the capital Kabul, asking the judicial authorities to investigate cases of violence against the gender.

    More than 100 females, taking part in the demonstration arranged by the Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), gathered in front of the Interior Ministry.

    “Where is the rule of law protecting women from violence? “We demand the government to enforce laws on rights and accountability,” chanted the protesting women.

    They urged the government to put on trial individuals involved in abusing women’s rights and those who considered such violent acts against females as right.

    The rally came three days after the United Nations complained Afghan authorities had been slow in enforcing a law protecting women against forced marriages, domestic violence and rape.

    In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, described the law as a "landmark" and said it "was a huge achievement for all Afghans."

    "But implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence and harmful practices, and prosecutors and courts slow to enforce the legal protections in the law," she said.

    A UNAMA report found that although Afghan authorities registered more reports of violence against women under the four-year-old law, prosecutions and convictions remained low.

    Afghanistan enacted its Elimination of Violence Against Women law in August 2009. It criminalizes child marriage, selling and buying women to settle disputes, assault and more than a dozen other acts of violence and abuse against women.

    AWN chief Hussaini Sapi told Pajhwok Afghan News they carried out the demonstration because a 14-day campaign on violence against women came to an end and that the rally coincided with the International Human Rights Day.

    “We urge the justice and judicial organs to thoroughly investigate cases of violence on women and put in place follow up programmes in this regard,” she said.

    Another civil society activist, Sonia Aslami, said the peaceful protest was against the lack of women’s access to justice. “We aim our rights should be protected. Not protecting our rights is in violation of human rights.”

    The protesting women said they trusted men in police uniform and called on the police to cooperate with women in fighting for their rights and should not let anyone to violate their rights.

    The call on police comes amid reports police had rescued a woman from being stoned to death by the Taliban in the Dash-i-Archi district of northern Kunduz province.

    Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiqui Siddique promised the protesting women that his ministry would intensify efforts at protecting women from violence because incident of violence against the gender had recently increased.

    The Independent Human Rights Commission says there has been a 25 percent increase in incidents of violence against women this year, when 4100 incidents took place over the past first six months. During the same period last year, the number of such cases stood at 3300.

    Ending their protest, the women released a declaration that called increasing incidents of violence against women as terrifying.

    It said despite strides in protecting women’s right over the past decade, their legal and social protection was on the decline as compared to the government’s role, pledges and responsibility in this regard.

    “It is unfortunate that most incidents of violence against women take place in areas controlled by the government. The law enforcing agencies in provinces and districts have not been able to implement a clear and serious policy to counter violent acts against women,” the declaration said.

    It asked the government to honour its pledges with regard to enforcing laws protecting women’s rights in order to investigate such cases and bring to justice the perpetrators.

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