Afghans join global chorus calling for an end to violence against women and girls
17 February 2013 – Hundreds of Afghan women and men joined a global campaign to eliminate violence against women, by taking to the streets of the capital, Kabul, among other provinces, last week.
In Kabul, about 250 protesters – wearing black scarf around their neck as a symbol of protest –marched from the famous Darulaman Palace to the Parliament building, a stretch of about two kilometres. The marchers held placards that read “stop violence” and chanted slogans calling for an end to violence against women.
The 14 February march was organized as part of the “One Billion Rising” global campaign to protect women and girls from violence. Women’s rights activists organized conferences of women in at least five provinces – Balkh, Herat, Bamyan, Paktika and Khost – because “unfavourable security situation” prevented them from hitting the street.
Violence against women and girl is widespread in Afghanistan. A UNAMA report released in December 2012 said despite some progress in implementing a three-year old law designed to protect Afghan women from violence, application of the landmark law continued to be hampered by “dramatic under reporting” and lack of investigations into most incidents of violence targeting women.
The Kabul march, which was coordinated by an umbrella civil society organization called Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), saw participation of rights activists, Members of Parliament, Government officials and students. The Kabul-based AWN has 90 women’s rights organizations of Afghanistan as its members.
Roshan Mashal of the AWN said cases of violence against women had been on the rise in Afghanistan. “Therefore, we launched this campaign against violence,” said Ms. Mashal.
In his message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the global campaign day must have been more than “a day of advocacy”. “It must be a day that triggers action,” said Mr. Ban. “The global pandemic of violence against women and girls thrives in a culture of discrimination and impunity. We must speak out.”
Fawzia Amini, the director of women’s rights in the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the Government registered 4,000 cases of violence against women from April to December 2012. The number of registered cases, as Ms. Amini said, was not any different from the previous year. She added that about half of the cases were resolved.
Ms. Amini said the Ministry was alarmed by high number of women committing suicide by hanging and self-immolation.
Robina Hamdard, an AWN emergency case officer, said other cases involved rape, running away from homes and murder. She said the AWN registered 540 emergency cases in Afghanistan’s north, west and south in last 11 months.
The One Billion Rising website said women and men in 203 countries were planning to come together on 14 February “in the largest day of mass action ever to stop violence against women and girls, to express their outrage, and to strike, dance and rise to support an end to violence against women once and for all”. No further update was available.