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Kabul, 3 March 2015 -- Women’s groups are urging the government to deliver on promises to share power. Afghan women and girls are not safe in their own homes, new research has reiterated.

New figures from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs show reporting on the violence against women has improved. Muzhgan Mustafawi, the acting minister, says 4,405 incidents of violence against women were recorded in 2012, including 188 cases of sexual abuse. The overall figure rose by more than 1,000 to 5,604 cases the following year, although the number of cases of sexual violence decreased to 174. “This year (the Afghan year ends on Mar 31) there are more than 4,000 cases of violence and sexual abuse cases adds up to a total of 110. But the final tally will be announced only in April,” she says.

Women face sexual harassment, and all kinds of bestial practices including the cutting off of a nose or hand to teach them a lesson. They are also denied rights to participate in politics or cultural events.

An earlier study by the non-governmental Law and Democracy Organisation (LDO) had measured the extent of patriarchy in the country. All the 3,900 men who were interviewed for the study titled ‘Women from the viewpoint of men’ described women as either uncontrollable or defiant. The survey was conducted in Herat, Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh and Nangarhar. The majority of respondents said they did not give their women decision-making rights or power.

LDO head Khudaidad Basharat says this is the reason why men continue to dominate Afghan society. Even programmes designed with the aim of empowering women are made by men, he says. “After years of investment by international community, women are still on the margins. The government left the women in the margin for fear of (social) reaction,” Basharat says.

The government has repeatedly promised to give women a share in the government, but no concrete plans have been made.  

Protests

On Feb 23, some 200 women’s activists demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court against the government’s apathy on women’s issues. The problems women face will become worse if laws are not implemented, they said. Even the gains made by women over the last 13 years will be squandered, they warned.

Zahra Saqeb, one of the organisers, said the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has recorded 4,250 cases of violence against women including incidents of forced marriage, beating, killing, sexual harassment and underage marriage but “powerful interests” have delayed investigations. “Investigations of the dossiers are facing several obstacles including from families who are doing their best to scuttle the probe. Powerful vested interests are also doing their best,” Saqeb said. “If women were given political power this would not have been the case,” she said at the demonstration.

Najiba Ayubi, managing director of DHSA (Development Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan which set up The Killid Group) and an activist, called on the Ashraf Ghani government to remove the problems women face in their quest for justice. “The government should prove it has a strong will to protect women’s rights by punishing the perpetrators of violence against women,” she said. The demonstrators issued a three-point statement on the strategy to eliminate violence against women: punish the guilty, weed out corruption in courts, and protect women’s rights.