Afghan women’s leaders announced at a press conference this morning in Kabul that they will fight the proposed regulation and any attempt of the government to take over battered women and girls shelters, currently run by non-profit women’s organizations. Leaders at the conference, organized by the Afghan Women’s Network, which is comprised of some 75 women’s groups and 4,500 members, voiced their concern that the regulation will prevent women from receiving the immediate shelter and support they need.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated, “The Feminist Majority Foundation and women’s groups throughout the nation support the efforts of Afghan women’s organizations in their work to provide desperately needed assistance to women and girls suffering from violence.”
The Afghan Women’s Network stated in its press release, “Independent safe-houses were started because our government failed to meet the basic human needs of women, and whose ineffective management of emergency shelter led to repeated attempted suicides by women…The Afghan Women’s Network believes that the first concern of any regulation, policy or law should be the protection of the citizen, not the control over foreign resources or saving ‘honor.'”
The proposed regulation would require women fleeing domestic violence situations to appear before an eight-person government panel before obtaining shelter. A government committee would determine whether women can be admitted to a shelter or if they should be jailed or returned to their families. If admitted to the shelter, women would then be required to submit to physical examinations, which could include a virginity test. Moreover, women could be forced to leave the shelter if their families requested that they return.
Ten years ago there were no shelters for abused women in Afghanistan. Currently, there are approximately 14 shelters.