Afghan women suffer despite progress on rights UN

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Afghanistan has made some progress in using the law to protect women against violence but many still suffer horrific abuse at the hands of men, a U.N. report showed Tuesday.

The assessment, which comes a day after a senior women’s rights official was shot dead, opens with the tragic death of a 15-year-old girl who set herself on fire this year after repeated beatings by her new husband and his father.

When she reported her case to prosecutors she was told to withdraw the complaint or face being jailed.

In a reflection of the desperate situation of many women in the patriarchal and war-ravaged Islamic country, the report described a sharp increase in the number of reported cases of violence against women as “an encouraging development”.

That is because attacks still remain largely under-reported due to cultural restraints and religious beliefs, and at times because women fear for their lives, the U.N.’s mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 4,010 cases of violence against women in the seven months to October this year, nearly twice as many as in the previous 12 months, the report said.

In 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, where the U.N. was able to gather detailed information, just 21 percent of 470 reports of violence against women resulted in convictions.

The report listed beating and cutting as the most prevalent crimes recorded under a new law on violence against women adopted in 2009.

But an increase in so-called honor killings, the murder of women for perceived sexual disobedience, was also noted.

Western countries like to point to advances in women’s rights as an indicator of the success of the long and costly Afghan war which is increasingly unpopular at home.

Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in a U.S.-led invasion 11 years ago girls have the right to education and women sit in the Afghan parliament.
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