In 2001, Afghanistan signed the Bonn Agreement, demonstrating a commitment to the establishment of a fully representative government sensitive to issues affecting women. In 2003, the country ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and in 2004 it signed the Millennium Declaration to promote equality of the sexes and improve maternal and child health. Also in 2004, the Afghan constitution was signed into effect, granting women full citizenship, with legal rights and duties equal to those of men. In 2005, Afghanistan signed the Protocol for the Elimination of Forced and Child Marriage, and in 2006, it put forward the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, which includes as goals the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of women in leadership. Today, women make up 27% of the National Assembly in Afghanistan. Sadly, these commitments and efforts do not appear to be translating into safer and healthier conditions for Afghan women and girls. The United Nations Development Fund for Women reports that 70 to 80% of female Afghanis are forced into marriages, and 57% are married before 16 years of age; 84% of women are illiterate as compared with 69% of men, and women are half as likely as men to have completed primary school. Afghan women have a fertility rate of 7.5 births per mother, and with a skilled birth attendant present at only 14% of births, the country’s maternal mortality is the second highest in the world. Although there are no reliable statistics on the prevalence of sexual or physical violence against Afghan women, the available indicators suggest that it is a major problem, primarily perpetrated by husbands and in-laws. In addition, there is increasing recognition of yet another related tragedy among Afghan girls and women: self-immolation.
And via (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty):
Since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, women have once again been given the right to study and work. But activists say women in many parts of Afghanistan — including Herat, which is ruled with an iron fist by provincial governor and warlord Ismail Khan — still face repression and harassment.
Virdee says the continued crackdown on women’s rights is contributing to the rise in self-immolation cases.
“The institutional repression of the women’s movement is also a big factor because women are not allowed to go on their own in taxi cars, they are sort of socially policed if they are talking to other men, they have to be in the burqa, they have restriction on freedom to work. Just recently in Herat a women’s shop which was employing a lot of women was closed. The driving school for women was also closed,” Virdee said.
Ahmad Bassir is a Herat-based correspondent for Radio Free Afghanistan. He says women see no difference between their lives now and under the Taliban, and that desperation drives them to attempt suicide.
“They say we were hoping that after the fall of Taliban and after the transitional authority took power, the situation would improve for women, and there would be fewer restrictions. But we see that there have been no changes, and women are using this very violent act [of self-immolation] to show their protest. Most of these girls are literate, they are knowledgeable, and several of them are students,” Bassir said.
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