Afghanistan

Afghan women restricted despite Taliban demise - UN

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By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, March 6 (Reuters) - Women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to face discrimination and intimidation more than a year after the fall of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime, according to a U.N. report issued on Thursday.

The country's emergence from 24 years of conflict and the Taliban's ouster in late 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition had led to some significant progress for women.

But many "Taliban-like" restrictions on women remained in parts of the country and a lot more still needed to be done to ensure their full and equal participation in society, the United Nations said in the report, issued ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

In rural areas, especially in the more conservative tribal belt where powerful warlords hold sway, the situation of women had not changed to any great extent since the removal of the Taliban, it said.

"Despite positive developments regarding women's rights, intimidation and violence by regional and local commanders against women continue unabated," the U.N. said.

"Women are reported to restrict their participation in public life to avoid being targets of violence by armed factions and elements seeking to enforce the repressive edicts of the previous regime."

Entitled "The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan", the report will be presented at a U.N. session in New York discussing the status of women worldwide lasting until March 14th, said the U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan Manoel de Almeida e Silva.

Under the Taliban, women were banned from all forms of education and most outdoor work.

The fundamentalist regime, which was seeking to build the world's purest Islamic state, also forced women to wear the burqa, a loose garment which covered the figure from head to toe with veiled eye holes, at all times outdoors.

Women had moved from this complete denial of rights to participation in several key state institutions, but many restrictions remained, the report said.

"The fact that women in many parts of the country continue to face gross violations of their rights, is a matter of concern," it said.

"Women are primary victims of insecurity...Taliban-like restrictions continue to be applied to women in some parts of the country by local leaders."

The report urged the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai to work harder to bring those responsible for violence against women to justice.

Reformers in Karzai's government have been struggling to introduce greater democracy and more liberal concepts since replacing the Taliban.

Even though there is no longer any formal requirement, many women still feel obliged to wear burqas, even in comparatively liberal Kabul.

Nearly a dozen girls' schools have been burned down or bombed in the past year in various parts of the country.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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