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them. According to a report by the UN, titled Still a Long Way to Go, “incidents of violence against women still (remains) largely under-reported due to cultural restraints, social norms and taboos, … religious beliefs, discrimination against women that leads to wider acceptance of violence against them”. Therefore the fear of “social stigma” and social change are major factors in the violation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In order to ensure that this tradition of suppression is not challenged, neither authorities nor society actively condemn atrocities committed against women.

What is largely needed is the implementation of laws that promote and protect the rights of women. It is also vital that the government condemns perpetrators of violence against women and brings them to justice. This will not only assist in changing social mentality, but also it will send a clear message that violence against women and girls will not be tolerated. Furthermore, in order to bring about a mental revolution towards gender inequality it is crucial that there are regular debates on this topic, not only by intellectuals in western countries, but by Afghan men and women. Women of all ethnic backgrounds must unite and speak up about their position in society and how they can influence social change.

The masculine authority within the Afghan society has stifled the voice of women - rendering them to suffer in silence. Although a woman may have the same qualifications, skills and knowledge as a male counterpart, since the large majority of decision makers in society are men, it is difficult for a woman to be as equally active. There are numerous reasons for this: the obvious reason is that her own family and society expect her to limit her interaction with any men who are not her relatives. The expectation that a woman’s place is in the home stops women from creating their own identity; from becoming educated and economically independent and from becoming equal to men. When a woman deviates from social expectations, both men and women judge her - sometimes, women more so - as they have been raised to believe that a woman’s inherent responsibility is to be submissive towards her brothers, uncles, fathers and husbands.

It is also essential that women are liberated from their own homes. Family structure that is intrinsically defined by traditional man-made norms must be challenged, questioned and altered. From a young age, girls need to be taught that they are equal to their brothers. They must be supported by their families to gain education, seek employment and take their rightful position in the society.

“My heart is full of pain, but it is hard to explain all these stories” -Quote by a women from Kandahar in the UN report “LIKE A BIRD WITH BROKEN WINGS”.

The lack of enthusiasm shown by the government to improve the situation for women has had a dire impact on the advancement of women’s rights. Instead of implementing laws to promote and protect the rights of women, the government has persistently sanctioned decrees that propagate violence against women. Imprisoning women for “moral crimes” is an example. A report by Human Rights Watch – I HAD TO RUN AWAY: Women and Girls Imprisoned for ‘Moral Crimes’ in Afghanistan- highlights how hundreds of women are imprisoned for “moral crimes” of “running away” and “zina”. Most of these women have fled from forced marriages and domestic violence. The report quotes that “while the women and girls who flee abuse often end up incarcerated, the men responsible for domestic violence and forced marriages causing flight almost always enjoy impunity from prosecution”. Therefore, the lack of interest shown by the government to provide legal protection for victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and other forms of abuse is a major hindrance to the improvement of gender inequality.

The struggle to encourage women’s rights can only be achieved through empowering women. Allowing girls to understand their potentials and their rights as human beings. The resilience shown by many Afghan women in the past few years has been extraordinary. What is needed is further disobedience to the barbaric and bias laws that subjugate them. Afghan women must be brought out of the darkness – and this can only be done through the light of education. Amidst bleakness, today’s Afghan girls find hope within the lines of their books. As this generation keenly pursues education and becomes armed with knowledge, there can only be hope that change is not far away. Kobra is from Hazarajat Afghanistan, and moved to Australia in December 2005. She is currently studying a Bachelor of International Relations and hopes to work in International Development.

Note from Amnesty International

• Increased enrolment into all tiers of formal education • Increased life expectancy • Reserved seats in the Afghan National Assembly and provincial councils • Women’s groups are able to operate more freely (though still with limitations) • Equal rights enshrined in the Afghan Constitution and official Afghan policy 19


Whilst things are far from ideal, it is important to recognise the positive changes that have occurred for women in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 there has been significant progress for women’s rights in Afghanistan. Some of the improvements include:

Profile for AM-UNITY Magazine

Edition 2  

This edition of AM-UNITY Magazine sees a focus on Refugee/Asylum Seeker Rights, Afghan Women’s Rights and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgende...

Edition 2  

This edition of AM-UNITY Magazine sees a focus on Refugee/Asylum Seeker Rights, Afghan Women’s Rights and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgende...