Afghan interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai stated his support for Afghan women’s rights last week by signing the Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women. Drafted in 2000 by participants in the Conference for Women of Afghanistan in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the Declaration affirms women’s right to personal safety, the right to physical and mental health, the right to institutional education, the right not to wear the burqa, and the right to equal protection under the law. “This is extremely important,” said Nasrine Gross, an Afghan-American who leads grassroots activities in the U.S. for the Paris-based Association to Support the Women of Afghanistan (NEGAR) and who was with Karzai at the signing. “His signature puts on the record to his Cabinet and to all of Afghanistan in what direction the country will be going.” Five Afghan women were present at the signing where Karzai stressed that women’s rights were a part of Afghan tradition and the nature of Islam.
The Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women was derived from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Afghan Constitutions of 1964 and 1977.