After conducting over one hundred extensive interviews with Afghan women, a leading human rights group has concluded that threats against women by warlords and the Taliban are undermining women’s participation in Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections. Human Rights Watch reports that these attacks on women have “created an environment of fear and caution” and that many women “wore burqas when traveling outside of KabulÉnot out of choice, but compulsion due to the lack of safety guarantees.”
According to Human Rights Watch, because many warlords worked with US forces to oust the Taliban, “the United States and other coalition governments have not made the warlords’ treatment of women a high priority.” The report lists examples of the types of threats and intimidation Afghan women’s rights activists are facing, such as receiving death threats by phone and the setting off of explosions in front of their homes. Many of the women interviewed expressed their frustration regarding the lack of security provided to them by the international security forces and the central government.
As a way to combat the threats and intimidation against women in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch is urging the United States to “enact the Afghan Women Security and Freedom Act (S2032) (HR 4117).” With the help of the Feminist Majority, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the act earlier this year. The act calls for direct funding for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and Afghan women’s organizations. The act also calls for expansion of international peacekeeping forces and the authorization of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) to intervene to stop human rights and women’s rights violations, which the current mandate does not allow.