Wednesday, 22 May 2013

What hope?

Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and has been a global concern now. The world watched with bated breath as Karzai’s promise held out some room for hope that women’s rights would be given importance. However, with that promise being yet unfulfilled and a recent opposition of legislation against violence against women, it appears that the sliver of hope has shrunk even further.

It looked extremely hopeful when the Afghan parliament placed the legislation among its most significant of agendas last week. It looked like the act would come to be a reality when it was drafted and considered one of the Afghan governments’ most significant achievements in keeping with women’s rights.

However, its passage was opposed by a few lawmakers, on the pretext that the legislation specified the age for marriage, spoke on polygamy and mandated the provision of shelter for women, and also determined specific penalties for those who committed the crime of violence against women and even accorded the right to the women themselves to decide upon their marriage. To the opposing lawmakers, these provisions appear to be anti-Islamic.

The opposition is a reflection of a rather dismal undercurrent, one that portends a propensity for concern. As the troops drawdown, for a final close in 2014, women’s rights still remains an endangered concern that needs attention. In July 2011, Afghanistan was rated as the world’s worst place to be a woman, qualifying as the most dangerous country for women. There isn’t much of a surprise in this, too, seeing cases like those of Gulnaz, Sahar Gul, Aisha Bibi, Malala Yousufzai and so many more women. Women are still vulnerable to attack and harm, despite international military presence. Security is lacking, and it is only second to this basic survival question, that health and education play roles. In a country that is still picking up pieces in the aftermath of years and years of war, what can we say of the future of women in Afghanistan?

Kirthi Gita Jayakumar

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