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3/21/04 - PROTECTING WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN - 2004-03-22


Afghanistan’s new constitution guarantees equal rights for women. The constitution also gives the recently formed Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission a permanent mandate to investigate abuses, including those against women. In more than two-thousand villages, Afghan women now lead local councils. And in June, Afghan women will have the opportunity to vote in the presidential election.

President George W. Bush says, “The advance of women’s rights and the advance of liberty are ultimately inseparable”:

“The constitution is a milestone in Afghanistan’s history.... The new lower house of parliament will guarantee places for women. Women voters in Afghanistan...are registering at a faster rate than men for the June election.”

The U.S. is committed to working with those who seek democratic change, including rights for women. The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council is developing projects to improve women’s education. Many women are now working and some are running their own businesses.

This month, nearly five-million Afghan children, including more than two-million girls, will begin a new school year. Just three years ago, under the extremist Taleban regime, ninety percent of girls could not go to school.

But Dr. Soraya Rahim, deputy minister of foreign affairs, says that despite progress, women still face abuse “in all of Afghanistan.” News reports document specific examples. Madina, a twenty-year-old Afghan woman, set herself on fire. She wanted to commit suicide, she said, because her husband’s family constantly beat her. According to Afghan officials and human rights workers, many other women are also beaten or otherwise deprived of their rights. President Hamid Karzai has called for an end to the abuse of women and respect for their rights.

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