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Afghan Women after the Taliban: Will History Repeat It Self?

This policy report has analyzed Afghan women’s problems through an historical perspective. Attempts have been made to identify the social forces that have resisted persistently against women’s forward movement. The religious and socio-tribal conservative forces have historically pushed back women’s rights, thereby serving as brakes and impediments to their development. Inherent to women’s rights under-development has been involution of women’s socio-political activism into a nation-wide movement to advocate, bargain and defend their rights as an independent force. These problems have continued to affect women in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The religious and social conservative forces, dominating the legislature, have vociferously struggled to block pro-women legislation and women’s rights activism is yet to transform into a reliable movement.
With international withdrawal looming imminent, the Taliban appearing ever more confident on the horizon, and their cohorts feeling emboldened within and beyond the state institutions, there’s a genuine risk that the hard-won developments of the past decade will be reversed. Fragmentation among civil society, the shadowy reconciliation program, and faltering international commitment all look threatening. Yet AHRDO has come up with recommendations to mitigate the effects of these negative challenges on women at this critical time in history.

This policy report was presented to members of the ‘Women Affairs, Civil Society and Human Rights Committee’ on February 2012 at the Parliament of Afghanistan.  In his opening speech, Mr. Khudadad Bisharat (Executive Director of AHRDO) began by praising the Committee, before moving on to outline at least 24 policy and legislative recommendations for the consideration of the Afghan government and National Assembly. These issues arose during Legislative Theatre Project discussions, carried out in five regions across the country.

The Legislative Theatre Project is a new and innovative strategy that seeks to address some of the challenges faced by women in Afghanistan today. It promotes the participation of women in political decision-making and in the drafting of legislation through a bottom-up female-focused approach – one that creates a space for Afghan woman to come together and discuss the issues that most affect them. The project’s grassroots strategy for change has so far engaged over 5000 Afghan women from all walks of life.

AHRDO’s policy report found that a variety of Afghan laws were actually “crime generating”, including Article 398 of the penal code. The Chairperson of the Women Affairs Committee (WAC), Ms. Fawzia Koofi, commended this new method of consultation and promised to share the ideas collected and recommendations formulated with other committees of the Wolsi Jirga (the Parliament’s Upper House). In fact AHRDO’s findings, specifically those relating to the Elimination of Violence Against Women, supported much of what the WAC had already discussed. The Committee’s secretary, Mr. Sarwar Faiz, reiterated their commitment to securing the physical and political rights of women.

Finally, on International Women’s Day 2012 AHRDO co-hosted a large gathering of embassy officials, civil society organizations and international media, with the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Delegation of the European Union, Luc Van Ebon, and the Ambassador of Sweden, Torbjörn Petterson. This provided a further opportunity for AHRDO to share its findings and recommendations with the international community. The Swedish International Development Agency agreed to fund more Legislative Theatre work off the back of this meeting.

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