A recent UN report raises awareness for the neglect of women’s rights in Afghanistan, naming honor killings, the exchange of women and girls as a form of dispute resolution, trafficking and abduction, early and forced marriages, domestic violence, rape, and gas and acid attacks on girls schools as major concerns that are not being properly addressed by the Afghan government. “The problem is that violence against women is not being challenged or condemned,” states Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

The report’s findings reaffirm that redefining cultural values to protect individual rights is an essential component of protecting women and minorities from violence and oppression. Government action tends to be most effective after these values become widely accepted among the general populace. Women can play an effective role in promoting these values, as Julie Gunlock pointed out in relation to the Iranian revolution:

“Neda has become a hero around the world, and a rallying cry for Iranian protestors, men and women alike.  Women in Iran are emerging as a strong force for change.  They are asking for expanded rights-not just women’s rights, but basic human rights for all Iranian citizens. […] [Women are] leading them in a march for freedom, liberty, and democracy.”