November 13 2012

Afghan Women: Frightened

Charlotte Hays

Rokhshana, a teenager in Afghanistan, has more on her mind than a demand for free contraception provided by Jesuits:

 Rokhshana, a 14-year-girl, has been behind bars here since March. She is serving a yearlong adultery sentence after what she describes as rape by her adult cousin, who remains a free man.

"I love my country, but there's no justice here," says Rokhshana at Herat's juvenile prison, her arms bearing the signs of beatings.

This is from a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal headlined “Afghan Women Fear Rights Will Erode as U.S. Leaves.” Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador at large for global women’s issues, says that the U.S. and Afghanistan will remain “significant partners” after U.S. withdrawal and will be able to “ensure women’s rights are pivotal.”

Many Afghan women remain worried, however. Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch's Afghanistan researcher, says that, when international pressure is reduced, Afghan authorities are less likely to uphold the gains made by women.

The Wall Street Journal says that abuses against women are widespread in areas where the Taliban is influential. Reportedly, several women have been stoned for adultery in these regions in recent years.

The article notes:

In July, a woman accused of adultery in an insurgent-dominated area of Parwan province neighboring Kabul was publicly executed by a gunman who shot her in the back of the head in front of a crowd of cheering villagers. The Afghan government accused the Taliban of staging the execution; the Taliban denied they were behind the killing.

Many Afghans worry that the Taliban will return to power once the majority of international troops withdraw in 2014, clawing back what tenuous achievements have been made under U.S. occupation. Like the Parwan execution, they are rattled by the October assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for promoting girls' education. The Taliban has vowed to hunt down the badly wounded teen again.

The U.S. is weary of fighting in Afghanistan, but international organizations must keep the spotlight on the women we are leaving behind.

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