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Women in Afghanistan

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Women in Afghanistan, a case study

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Women in Afghanistan

  1. 1. A Case Study
  2. 2. Located in Central Asia, bordered by six countries: 1. China 2. Iran 3. Pakistan 4. Tajikistan 5. Turkmenistan 6. Uzbekistan
  3. 3. Landlocked nation (slightly smaller than Texas) Total Population: 30.5 million Capital: Kabul
  4. 4. Most Afghans live in rural areas (77%)  About ¾ of the population consists of farmers and nomads • Only 12% of the land, however, is arable
  5. 5.  Many Afghans are bilingual  The main languages spoken by Afghans are: Dari (official language) 50% Pashtu (official language) 35% Turkic languages 11%
  6. 6.  Islam is the religion practiced by most Afghans; it is central to Afghans' identity (99.7%)
  7. 7. King Amanullah Khan and his wife Queen Soraya  1919 – 1929
  8. 8.  1940s – 1950s • Increase in women’s employment rate • Some women began attending schools and universities
  9. 9. In 1959 the burqa became optional
  10. 10.  1960s-1970s • New constitution was drafted recognizing the right of women to vote (1964) • Women began participating in politics • Increase in women attending universities
  11. 11. 1978 • President Mohammad Daud Khan overthrown • Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) takes control • Communist Ideology
  12. 12. The new government, which had little popular support, forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anticommunist population. Many Afghans did not like communism so insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these—known collectively as the Mujahideen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those who engage in jihad”)—were Islamic in orientation.
  13. 13. 1979-1992 • Soviet Union invades Afghanistan with hope of spreading communism (1979)  Upon taking power, the Soviet Communist government introduced a program of reforms designed to: • Abolish feudal power in the countryside, • Guarantee freedom of religion • Guarantee equal rights for women and ethnic minorities • Improve literacy rate of men and women of Afghanistan • Improve healthcare in rural areas
  14. 14.  Under the Soviet Union's Communist regime, Afghan women enjoyed equal rights and social, economic, and political freedom.  By the late 1980s women made up: • 50% of all university students in Afghanistan • 40% of the country’s doctors • 30% of civil servants
  15. 15.  However, much of the progress was limited to women in urban areas  Mujahideen forces were strong in rural areas and many Afghan men did not support such liberal reforms • Consequently, they were able to control women (limit access to education, employment, healthcare) • Burned and killed women who stood in support of Soviet Government
  16. 16. 1989-1992 • Mujahideen forces received funds from USA, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to overthrow Soviet Union. As a result, forces grew even stronger. • In 1989 Soviet Union withdrew, but civil war erupted among factions of guerilla fighters known as ‘Mujahideen’ • In 1992 the Communist regime fell and Mujahideen Government took control.
  17. 17.  During the 23 years of conflict (1979-1992) roughly 850,000 – 1.5 million Afghan civilians were killed.  In addition, roughly 4 million Afghans became refugees Most refugees fled to two main countries: ➢ Iran ➢ Pakistan  There are an estimated 300,000 Afghans living in the U.S. today.
  18. 18. 1992-1996  When the Mujahideen took power in 1992, they forced all women to follow the Islamic dress code, including wearing veils.  Women’s movement was restricted; consequently employment and education for women declined; access to medical care was limited.  During the bloody four-year civil war, women often were kidnapped, raped and killed by men from other ethnicities.
  19. 19.  1996 -2001 • Civil war continued until 1996, when hard-line group known as the Taliban seized power  Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islam
  20. 20.  The lives of women became even worse during the Taliban regime when they were forbidden to go to work, school or even go out of their houses without a male chaperone.  Burqas became compulsory and women were beaten on the streets if they did not wear it properly.
  21. 21. View through a veil, or burka, which all Afghan women were required to wear outside the home. • Restricted vision has reportedly caused numerous accidents involving vehicles and women pedestrians.
  22. 22.  If the women and girls violated these rules they received punishments, including beatings, amputations of the limbs, and public execution.  Faced with no way to earn a living, the majority of Afghan women silently sat inside their homes depressed and suicidal.
  23. 23. In 2001, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban regime collapsed. This development gave women hope their freedom would be restored.
  24. 24. Bonn Agreement • Mandated a new constitution must be established in Afghanistan with the consultation of the public • Similar to previous decades, the laws were reformed to make significant progress for women. 2004  New Constitution is implemented  President Hamid Karzai is elected
  25. 25.  Article 22 states, “The citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman—have equal rights and duties before the law.”  Article 44 states, “The state shall devise and implement effective programs for balancing and promoting of education for women, improving of education of nomads and elimination of illiteracy in the country.”
  26. 26. The Constitution also mandates that women are guaranteed seats in Afghanistan’s bicameral National Assembly. In 2004 the law stood that approximately 25% of the seats in the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) were reserved for women and the President must appoint additional women to the Meshrano Jirga (House of the Elders.) However in 2009, this law was revised, dropping the number to 20%.
  27. 27. International Law  The Constitution obliges the government "to create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice," and to "protect human rights," expressly requiring the state to "abide by the U.N. charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
  28. 28. Afghanistan is a party to the following human rights treaties and covenants: • ICCPR –1983 • ICESCR – 1983 • Convention Against Torture-1987 • Convention of the Rights of the Child- 2003 • CEDAW- 2003 • International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination Against Women- 2003
  29. 29.  Yet despite these provisions, women are still discriminated against, tormented, and faced with violence in many parts of the country.  Critics point to Article 3 of the Constitution which states: “No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.”
  30. 30.  http://vimeo.com/60319802 (2013)
  31. 31.  For most women, little has changed since the days of the Taliban, as the effects of fundamentalist rule remain  It remains taboo for an Afghan woman to be seen in public without a burqa, although it is not required by law.
  32. 32. Violence • The U.N. estimates that 70 to 80% of marriages in Afghanistan are forced - resulting in alarming suicide rates. • In 2007 alone, 500 women set fire to themselves to escape forced marriages. • In 2008, a Human Rights Watch survey found 87% of women had experienced at least one form of sexual, physical, or psychological abuse.
  33. 33. The Afghan government recently changed the legal age for marriage for girls from 16 to 17. • Men who want to marry girls under 17 are not entitled to obtain a marriage certificate, although many men simply do not bother with officially registering their marriages. • However, it seems that fewer girls are getting married. Self-immolation (setting oneself on fire) has decreased from 350 cases per year in Herat province to 70 cases per year after a government education campaign.
  34. 34. Education  The literacy rate for females over the age of 15 is 12.6% compared to 43.1% for males  Only 40% of females attend primary school and only 6% attend secondary school.  Currently, there are 70 private universities in Afghanistan; over 200,000 students attend college — but only 18% are women, and 82% men.
  35. 35. Healthcare  Afghanistan is the second worst country in the world to be a mother.  1 out of every 11 women dies in pregnancy or childbirth in Afghanistan.  1 out of every 10 children die before their 5th birthday.  The average Afghan woman won’t live to see her 50th birthday.
  36. 36. Employment • Women can be employed, but only if their male relatives permit it.
  37. 37. Politics According to local reports, from mid 2012 to early 2013, 30 female political and civil society leaders were killed. Female political candidates are the target of 90% of all threats against candidates in Afghanistan.
  38. 38. Prisoners of Tradition (2013) • http://youtu.be/W0Q9n4gmJrY?t=50s
  39. 39.  According to Sharia law, a female’s testimony is worth ½ that of a man. In custody cases, children will usually be awarded to the father or grandfather.  So divorce—even in extreme abuse cases—is less likely to be sought, because a woman must be prepared to lose her children.
  40. 40. Problems Mistrust of judicial system • Corrupt, disconnected Judges are not educated in Afghan law • Base decisions on personal interpretation of Islam (Sharia law) Afghans are unaware of the correct law • Misinformed • Do not know about laws due to the lack of education/numerous regime changes
  41. 41. Afghan Law or Islamic Law? • http://youtu.be/W0Q9n4gmJrY?t=3m30s • Background: Sohelia is in prison for refusing to marry an older man that her father had chosen for her. She ran away and married her lover and was sentenced to prison for 6 years.
  42. 42. Citizens outside urban areas are typically never engaged with the central government. • Located in rural areas, where there is little government presence, the local people rely on tribal dispute resolution for 90% of all civil and criminal complaints.  These tribal courts have grounding in neither constitutional nor Islamic law, and instead base decisions off local tradition.
  43. 43.  BA’AD  In the tribal courts, the first sacrifice is women. If there is a fight for land, for water, if there is violence, a girl can be given in ba’ad to settle these things.  While ba'ad is a criminal offense under Article 517 of the 1976 Afghan Penal Code, the Article applies only if a widow and woman above age 18 is given under ba'ad.  According to Afghan law, the sentence for perpetrators of ba'ad (example-forcing a woman into marriage and slavery through Ba'ad) cannot exceed two years of prison. 35 year old man receives 7 year old girl in a trade for 1.5 acres of land.
  44. 44. 1. Emirate of Afghanistan (1826–1919) 2. Kingdom of Afghanistan (1919–1973) 3. Republic of Afghanistan (1973–1978) 4. Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (1978–1992) 5. Islamic State of Afghanistan (Mujahideen) (1992–2001) 6. Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) (1996–2001) 7. Interim/Transitional Administration (2001–2004) 8. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (since 2004)
  45. 45.  Some cases of injustice never reach a tribunal due to fear  Night Letters from the Taliban  Women are afraid to work/send children to school.
  46. 46.  Reality – death is a possibility every day.  Say good-bye to children every time I leave the house.  “In recent years, extremists have assassinated Malalai Kakar, the country's most prominent policewoman; Safia Ama Jan, director of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kandahar; and journalist Zakia Zaki. I cannot imagine the reserves of courage that Pakzad, 38, taps into every morning when she steps out the door, knowing it may be for the last time” - Khaled Hosseini
  47. 47.  The Afghan war has cost 2,314 Americans their lives and wounded 19,701 as of April 21, 2014.  Upwards of 20,000 Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001.  Without tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops on the ground, will Afghanistan witness a Taliban resurgence?  Should some U.S. forces be kept in Afghanistan?
  48. 48.  Obama in May of 2014- ““We have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,” he said. “The future of Afghanistan must be decided by Afghans.”
  49. 49. Suggestions for future success • Education Reform • Access to Legal Recourse • Political Participation
  50. 50. Education Reform New models of understanding gender • Broadening education to be sure that curricula in state and madrassa schools include awareness about rights and civic roles from a very young age.
  51. 51.  In their lifetimes, 87% of Afghan women will experience some form of gender-based violence. Meanwhile, women comprise less than 1% of the national police force and only 10% of the judicial corps.  To protect women’s rights - women need to be able to defend their rights. This means ensuring women are in positions of political power and judicial authority.  When you have female police officers in place at a local level, crimes of sexual- and gender-based violence are more likely to be reported, investigated, and prosecuted.
  52. 52.  Engaging women at the local level in public debates and dialogues  The more women demonstrate active citizenship, the more public representatives will have to respond to their demands as members of a voting constituency.
  53. 53.  Crucial that we take a step back from what many consider “main stream western reform” and realize we are asking a country to change its entire culture.  Where to start? • What do Afghan men value? • What/who do Afghan men find credible?
  54. 54.  Those who use ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ to justify acts of violence against women usually do so on the grounds that their interpretation represents the one ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ vision, while simultaneously marginalizing alternatives.  Discrimination and violence against women is thus rooted in the domineering, and patriarchal interpretation and not the inherent nature of that religion or culture itself.  Accordingly, it is crucial to demystify the concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘religion’, exposing the vested interests of those who claim to represent ‘authenticity’, and bring to light alternative visions in order to protect women’s human rights.
  55. 55.  Islamic law is viewed as more credible at the community level and as more progressive with regards to women’s rights than most customary norms and practices.  Greater assessment of how Islamic legal literacy, scholarship, and dialogue might help protect women’s rights in the coming difficult period is crucial to increasing the acceptance of these rights and therefore their sustainability.
  56. 56.  “The majority of Afghan men I have spoken to about this do not oppose the idea of their wife, sister, or daughter working outside the home or pursuing further education; rather, their opposition to it in practice comes from a fear of how others in their community or extended family may judge them. Breaking a cultural taboo sparks a plague of gossip that has the potential to destroy a family's reputation, particularly when it concerns the integrity of women, who represent a family's honor.” – Reporter in Afghanistan
  57. 57. When women are isolated from society, they are not the only ones who suffer. With lack of income, the entire family suffers.
  58. 58.  If a woman can contribute to her family or community in culturally acceptable ways, men may start to recognize women not just as a housekeeper and caretaker, but also as an individual who can generate some income for the household or make needed contributions to the community, placing women on a more level playing field with men.  Furthermore, such activities give women a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem, attitudes that are invariably passed down to future generations.
  59. 59.  We have heard of women having greater freedom in the larger cities but this is often not heard of in the rural areas.  Generating public dialogue and story telling of exemplary women in the community, religion, or country through radio programs that seed messages of women's empowerment in communities far outside of Kabul is one way to accomplish this.
  60. 60.  http://vimeo.com/90779690

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