World of Women
Women in Afghanistan: How much progress has been made?
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The video that surfaced last month showing the horrifying execution of a 22-year Afghan woman for adultery has provided a stark reminder of the plight of women in Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban was toppled in 2001, there has been substantial progress towards advancing the rights of women in Afghanistan. However, the execution of “Najiba”, the wife of a Taliban member shot nine times in front of a large group of men, has raised concerns regarding the resurgence of the Taliban.
Before 2001, the Taliban severely restricted women’s access to education, healthcare and work. But following September 11, these restrictions were lifted in certain areas, allowing women to run for office, hold government positions and run businesses.
Women were guaranteed equal rights under the country’s 2004 constitution, and in 2009, a law was introduced that banned violence against women and set penalties for underage and forced marriage, rape and other abuses. As the New York Times reports, these changes have resulted in more Afghan girls being educated and a decline in maternity death rates.
But as Reuters reports, violence against women has increased sharply in the last year and activists say there is a fading interest in women’s rights among president Hamid Karzai’s government.
“After 10 years [of foreign intervention], and only a few kilometres from Kabul, how could this happen in front of all these people?” a female lawmaker Fawzia Koofi told Reuters.
“This is happening under a government that claims to have made so much progress in women’s rights, claims to have changed women’s lives and this is unacceptable. It is a huge step backwards.”
The execution of the young Afghan woman, during which dozens of men applauded and yelled “God is great”, has sparked a protest in the streets of Kabul this week.
According to reports by The Guardian, while the killing (to which the Taliban has denied any involvement) is a reminder of the abuse women still suffer in Afghanistan, this week’s protest indicates that people’s views on women’s rights are gradually changing.
“We want the government to take action on behalf of these women who are victims of violence and who are being killed,” Zuhra Alamya, an activist at the protest told The Guardian. “We want the government to take serious action and stop them.”
In response to the video, Australian foreign affairs minister Bob Carr labelled the execution as “barbaric”, following British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s comments that the video was “shocking” and “disgusting”.
“Such deplorable actions underline the vital need for better protection of the rights of women in Afghanistan,” said Hague.
In his blog, Thoughtlines with Bob Carr, the foreign minister said on 15 August that although Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries in the world for females, Australia’s assistance is helping to progress women’s rights.
On 9 July, Australia announced a commitment of $7.7 million to tackle violence against women.
Carr noted that under the Taliban there were virtually no girls in school in Afghanistan but today there are more than 2.5 million.
“We are also seeing increased female representation in Parliament. Currently 28 percent of Parliamentarians are women.
Australia is a major contributor to Afghan aid, with more than $250 million committed per year from 2015-16 as part of a global commitment of $16 billion over the next four years,” Carr said.