Human rights watchdog: Violence against women increasing in southern Afghanistan
A man picks poppies in the Helmand province, which contributes to the heroin epidemic and violence toward women. (AFP/File)
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Incidents of violence against women are increasing in southern Helmand province and they are denied rights in various spheres of life, rights officials said on Monday.
Fatima Abida, women’s affairs head at Helmand’s chapter of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), told Pajhwok Afghan News that 28 cases of violence against women had been registered by her department since the start of the solar year (March 22) in Helmand.
She said some of the cases had been resolved and the rest remained unaddressed. She said though a number of programs on women’s rights had been implemented during the past some years, the level of violence against the gender continued to be high due to local customs, insecurity and illiteracy.
Abida said a number of men were addicted to drugs in the poppy-rich province, thus forcing women to work and earn money to support their families.
“It is very hard for a woman to work inside and outside of home in the presence of husband, it brings pressure on women.”
Abida expressed her concern that still some families in a number of areas agreed to giving their underage daughters into marriage to older and drug addicts in return for money.
AIHRC head for Helmand Bilal Ahmad Sediqi also told Pajhwok that violence against women in Helmand had lately increased. “Many women face numerous problems but they at least cannot share their problems with us.”
He identified insecurity, drug addiction, local customs, unawareness and illiteracy as key factors behind the increasing violence against women. “We need to travel to many areas to work for women’s rights but insecurity and other reasons don’t allow us to do so.”
Sediqi said girls in many areas of Helmand were deprived of education and these girls would face many challenges in future.
Women’s Affairs Director Jamila Niazi told Pajhwok that women continued to face violence and other problems in the province.
“In some districts still women are intimidated in various ways like divorce, beating, early marriages and forced marriages. All these keep the level of violence high,” she said.
The director did not disclose this year’s figures on incidents of violence against women, but said she had forwarded some cases to judicial organs and other to the human rights commission in order to be solved.
“We don’t have women shelter and therefore we have sent some women to the children’s rehab center.”
Niazi said government departments, religious scholars, tribal elders and common people should assist her department in reducing incidents of violence against women.
In this regard, a 30-year-old woman, Bibi Zara, a mother of seven children, told Pajhwok that her husband was addicted to heroin. She said her spouse was using drugs over the past eight years. “He used to beat me every day. He sold everything we had at home.”
She said her husband has been missing over the past one year and she alone was taking care of her children.
“Now I have come to the human rights office to get my two sons enrolled at the children training centre because all my children cannot go to school.”
To a question, Bibi Zara said she was living in a ruined home and used to sew people’s clothes against wages to run the life cycle. She said no government department had ever helped her.
Civil society activist Hadia Helmandi said gender was yet to be implemented in government departments.
“Once I shared the problem with the president. If women are given participation in government like men, violence against them can be prevented.”
Omar Zwak, the governor’s spokesman, said violence against women was committed in Helmand.
He said the provincial administration had long been trying to reduce the level of violence against women by carrying out different programmes.
According to the attorney general’s office (AGO), 9,600 incidents of violence against women have been registered in Afghanistan over the past six years.
By Zainullah Stanikzai
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