In a victory for Afghan women’s rights groups, President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet approved new draft regulations that will allow women’s shelters in Afghanistan to remain independent and not come under government control. The regulations will also allow the shelters to receive money from donors without government intermediation. The government has not published the changes to the regulations to avoid controversy; however, Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the UN mission in Afghanistan, called the regulations “a victory for women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
Gagnon stated that women’s groups were “able to convince the government and others that shelters were needed [and that] they needed to be independent to preserve women’s rights and dignity.”
In February, the Afghan government proposed other regulations, which were not passed, that would have allowed it to take over battered women and girls shelters, which were run by non-profit women’s organizations. The proposed regulation would have required women fleeing domestic violence situations to appear before an eight-person government panel before obtaining shelter. A government committee would then determine whether women could be admitted to a shelter or if they should be jailed or returned to their families. If admitted to the shelter, women would have been 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.