A new report on the current status of Afghan women and girls issued by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) demonstrates that Afghan women and girls continue to face extreme obstacles and discrimination as they seek to exercise their rights. The “Evaluation Report on General Situation of Women in Afghanistan” states that despite the Afghan government’s constitutional obligation to “observe and respect women’s rights” and the numerous human rights treaties Afghanistan has signed, women face many problems in all aspects of their lives.
The report cites the practice of forced marriage as one of the “main causes of women’s rights violations” throughout the country. Shockingly, an AIHRC survey found that more than 38 percent of women were “wedded off against their will and consent.” Another appalling indication of the dire situation of Afghan women is the finding that more than 50 percent have been subjected to domestic violence. In addition to the physical and mental effects, the AIHRC stated in the report that domestic violence in Afghanistan frequently is the cause of suicide, self-immolation, forced prostitution and addiction to narcotics. Despite the magnitude of the problem, according to the report, “no serious action” has been taken to deal with domestic violence, and the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the law is not clear in this area and the civil code and the constitution are inconsistent on the issue.
Among the many inequities outlined in the report is a major disparity in the numbers of girls and boys attending school. The researchers report that more than twice the number of boys than girls attend schools. In the Zabul region, girls make up only 3 percent of the school population, even though there is little difference in the numbers of school-aged girls and boys in the area. Lack of security was cited as a primary reason why girls do not attend school in Zabul, which is in southern Afghanistan. The United Nations has reported that most of the 300 schools set on fire this year were in southern Afghanistan, according to the AIHRC. In addition to the lack of security, reasons given for the low number of girls attending schools included: “widespread gender discrimination in society’s customary practices; family poverty; and lack or shortages of female schools.”
The AIHRC has included comprehensive recommendations to address the severe problems outlined in their report, including a focus on gender in all government actions and that the government “struggle against improper tradition aiming at ensuring of women’s rights and ensuring of family well-being through legislation, provincial councils and religious scholars.”