Afghanistan: Women Face An Increasingly Dangerous Future

As the world celebrated International Human Rights Day on December 10th, Afghanistan human rights activists mourned Najia Sediq, acting head of the Afghanistan government’s Department of Women’s Affairs, who was shot on her way to work that morning. Her predecessor Hanifa Safi was also murdered a few months earlier. No one has been arrested in either case.
 
The main challenge for activists working to protect women from violence is a society where many view women’s rights as an attack on Islam and national sovereignty. Even though Afghanistan’s 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women made many forms of abuse against women a crime, there has been little enforcement by police and prosecutors. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported 4000 incidents of violence against women in April through October of 2012, an increase of 1000 cases compared to the same period last year.
 
Each province in Afghanistan has its own Women’s Affairs office, considered the front line in the Afghan government’s fight to end violence against women. Human Rights Watch has reported that in spite of desperately difficult and dangerous working conditions, including provinces with no shelters for battered women (there are only 14 shelters in the whole country), Women’s Affairs staff members have protected women in their own homes, at their own personal risk.
 
International aid, which has been a great source of help for Afghan women, is decreasing. Although the need for aid is critically important as Afghan women face an increasingly dangerous future, international support is likely to decrease dramatically.