Kai Eide, the United Nations Special Envoy to Afghanistan, urged Afghan leaders to fight violence against women at a meeting in Kabul where he announced a new UN report on the subject. The report, entitled “Silence is Violence” (see PDF), was written by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. It combats the idea that women’s rights are a luxury which cannot be guaranteed in the face of more pressing security issues and focuses on both sexual violence and violence that inhibits women’s societal participation. The report details the types of violence most commonly used against Afghan women, as well as the usual perpetrators of the violence. While the report does not specifically indict government policy as a cause of violence, it does highlight the role that family and community play in the abuse of women.
Dr. Sima Samar, the chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says that the idea that it is more important to “have security rather than human rights…is absolutely the wrong concept, since you need human rights for sustainable peace,” reports the Christian Science Monitor.
The report also notes that attacks are most violent against women who lead more public lives, saying that “[t]he pattern of attacks against women operating in the public sphere sends a strong message to all women to stay at home. This has obvious ramifications for the transformation of Afghanistan, the stated priority of Afghan authorities, and their international supporters.”
Violence against women and girls has been rising in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Last year, Taliban insurgents were arrested in the case of an acid attack against schoolgirls in the southern city of Kandahar. This year, a young couple was executed by the Taliban after eloping, more than 150 Afghan schoolgirls were hospitalized in three suspected gas attacks on their schools, a woman politician and women’s rights activist was murdered outside her Kandahar home, and women protesters were pelted in Kabul while protesting a controversial Shia law that would severely restrict women’s rights by legalizing rape within marriage, among other provisions, if enacted.