SIGN HERE: To The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives: Protect Afghan Women's Human and Civil Rights Gains in Afghanistan
Why This Is Important
For instance, violence against women was finally declared a crime in 2009, Before then, such violence had been considered a de facto male prerogative. Private and public beatings, stonings, honor killings, public floggings, even mutilations and disfigurements had become routine under the Taliban, with such crimes still persisting against women even today in areas beyond enforcement of the new law. Worse still, elements of the Taliban, in league with al Qaeda, even ran human trafficking rings enslaving women before their overthrow, as highlighted in this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban#Oppression_of_women.
Some of the major gains for Afghans in general and women and girls since the overthrow of the Taliban include:
- Nearly seven million children in school, compared to less than one million in 2001 (mainly boy students of madrassahs);
- More than 90% of Afghans have access to basic healthcare; unlike in 2001, when less than 10% had access;
- Girls and women are free to work, attend school, and seek medical care-rights that were denied to them under Taliban rule;
- A Constitution is in place, and it grants men and women equality in the eyes of the law;
- There is a democratically evolving government and a parliament that is gradually becoming a more forceful check on the executive and has a higher percentage of women members than in Canada actually.
- Afghanistan once had the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, however this has steadily been decreasing since 2002 as midwife training programs have been established and access to healthcare is increased
- Early reforms to the judiciary are underway, and Afghan women have played an active role in introducing legislation that will better protect their rights such as the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law
- Successful introduction of country-wide inoculations for children
- The growing impact of a strong Afghan feminist movement on reform and rights efforts. (source: http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/PolicyStatement )
But, as Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch recently wrote, "With international interest in Afghanistan waning, negotiations with the Taliban in the offing, and Karzai's endorsement of the Ulema Council's [paternalistic] statement, Afghan women are more vulnerable than at any time in the past 10 years. Now President Obama and other backers of the Afghan government should make it clear that they will not support any deals that sacrifice women's rights, and press Karzai to make his position clear. The risks for Afghan women are too high to do anything less." (source:http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/08/are-afghan-women-better-after-decade-war)
Concerned citizens around the world cannot and will not allow millions of Afghan women and girls to be sacrificed upon the altar of political expediency. It is thus incumbent upon Congress to lend a strong and positive voice and its full support to maintaining and strengthening women's rights in Afghanistan. There can be no surrender to the horrors of the past nor tolerance in the present for ongoing assaults against women, as well as their fundamental human and civil rights.
Accordingly, we invite you to contact your senators and congressmen and women, and in particular the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator John Kerry and the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to do what is needed to hold the line and strengthen it for women and girls in Afghanistan.