Last Updated: Monday, 29 December 2014, 11:36 GMT

Evaluation report on General Situation of Women in Afghanistan

Publisher Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
Publication Date 2006
Cite as Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Evaluation report on General Situation of Women in Afghanistan, 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47fdfad5d.html [accessed 29 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Introduction:

This report has been prepared on the basis of a study on general status of Afghan women made by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Women rights are enshrined in most international human rights treaties to which Afghanistan has joined, such as International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Thus Afghan government has an obligation, also mentioned in the constitution, to observe and respect women rights.

Article 7 of the Constitution reads, "The State must abide by the UN Charter, international treaties and international convention that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Article 22 of the Constitution says, "Any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan are prohibited. The citizens of Afghanistan whether man or woman has equal rights and duties before the law.",

However, despite all these treaties and laws and relative development of women in recent years, a myriad of problems for women in political, social, cultural, etc spheres still persist.

Method of compiling Information:

Information gathering has been conducted through questionnaires, results of surveys and studies that the commission has conducted on women, annual reports and various other researches made by the commission, interviews with officials from prosecution office and prisons, and with ordinary people covering many grounds including education, health, violence against women and judiciary protection all in all have contributed in preparing this report.

Restrictions:

This report had also some restriction ahead of it such as lack of access to accurate information on the areas like domestic violence, rape etc since most women or families don't tend to talk about it.

Access to many places like Oruzgan has been impossible due to security reasons; thus no data has been collected in these places or data collected are not accurate. Figures in this report don't represent all regions of the country, but efforts have been made to present a general picture of women situation in Afghanistan.

1. Education:

It's known that education especially for girls is among basic requirements for an improved life standard in any society, but despite 85% of women and girls being illiterate in Afghanistan, the state allocated budget fund in this regard constitute the lowest level in the region, and girls are facing many problems in this area.[1]
In Afghanistan, the number of girls going to school is less than half the number of school boys, and even in some regions like Zabul, this ratio is 3% / 97%; though the number of male and female populations aging between 6-18 year old don't have a considerable difference.

Another problem in terms of education in Afghanistan is the number of female schools including elementary and high schools that has decreased considerably. In Kandahar, for example, there are 255 elementary schools, whilst 20 high schools exist in the city. In central region of the country there are 256 elementary schools and only 27 high schools, which shows inability or unwillingness of girls to study.

One other considerable challenge in education area is the inappropriate distribution of schools across the country and thus violation of children access to education, especially female children right. Fariab province, for example, has 4 female high schools whilst there is no such high school in Ghor province, or there are 61 high schools in the south region of the country but entral region has 27 high schools.

Results of our study show that the reasons for lack of education of girls in Afghanistan should mostly be the following:

1. Widespread gender discrimination in society's customary practices

2. Family poverty

3. Security challenges

4. Lack or shortages of female schools

Relevance of these factors differs in every region. For instance, more than 90% of girls in Zabul province don't go to school due to existing insecurity.

According to press releases of United Nation in current year, 300 schools particularly in southern region were set in fire and a number of teachers were killed. This clearly indicates insecurity level in the country which has had intense impact on children admission to school, especially girls.

But in some provinces like Jowzjan, inability of girls to educate is due to lack of female schools. There is no school, excepting a private school covering subjects of  1st and 2nd grades, in Gharghin district of Jowzjan province.

Family poverty is the formidable factor for inability of children to go to schools in north-eastern region, though poverty exists in all regions of Afghanistan. As the Millennium Development Goals for Afghanistan report in 2005 has estimated, average income per capita is less than $US 200 in Afghanistan. Meanwhile only 13.5% of families have access to sustainable income source[2], and economic vulnerability of families has direct impact on lack of female education.

Many girls fail to go to schools because of household work, while most of these girls are not regarded as working children. As such, the number of girl workers who don't go to school is more than boy workers.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 (Everyone has the right to education and education, at least elementary education should be provided free..), however provides for free education for all.

In addition, Article 28 of Convention on Child Rights reads, states signatory to this convention recognize child right to education and make efforts to realize this right through piecemeal and equitable attempts to encourage persistent school going and decrease failure rate in schools.

Also Article 10 of Convention on Elimination of all form of Discrimination against Women says that government has an obligation to make efforts in providing for equal rights of men and women in terms of education.

Article 43 and 44 of the Constitution considers the government as tasked with taking necessary measures to eliminate illiteracy, develop women education and improve level of education among nomads.

Therefore, now the state should work more seriously in the area of education than in the past, explore root causes of the problems, try to raise public awareness regarding significance of girls education and assistance to poor families in order to send their children to schools, deal with security challenges and remove obstacles of girls education, whether in terms of their enrolment to school of their ability to go to schools and to continue their education in higher levels.

 

2. Health:

Access to health and health services is fundamental human rights, but unfortunately most of the people, especially women are deprived of this right.

Availability of only one doctor and five nurses for every 100,000 persons, and one bed for 300 persons is a critical issue. [3]  As a result of this limitation, poverty, and low income of the families, we see that child and mother mortality is on the highest level. It is reported that in every 30 minutes a women dies during pregnancy or child birth and this figure indicates 60 deaths in each 1000 women which is 60 % higher in comparison to the industrial world, while 80 % of these deaths are preventable. [4] According to the report on Millennium Development Plan for Afghanistan, this figure should decrease to 50% by the year 2015, but the research and evaluation by the commission indicates non-achievability of this goal. In addition to other disease, 70 % of tuberculoses victims are women.

The recent studies by the AIHRC on non accessibility of women to health services show the following factors:

improper tradition, non-existence or lack of health centers, poor economy, lack of self-sufficiency, lack of women participation in their own affairs, lack of attention to their health issues by the families, domestic violation against women which emanates from culture of patriarchy as well as illiteracy among women.

According to the studies conducted by the Commission, 24.6 % of people have no access to acceptable health service and the majority of them are women. In addition 54.8 % of people can not use the so called health centers due to long distances. [5]

The level of accessibility to health services is different in various provinces. Women access to health service is only 5 to 7 % in the south west ( Zabul, Helmand), in some districts of central Afghanistan, there isn't any female doctor or health worker. Difficult roads are another obstacle for women to have access to health services.

This situation exists, though the national and international laws emphasize on women access to health services.

Article 12 of the convention on elimination of all forms violation against women obliges the state parties to take necessary measures for elimination of all discriminations against women and prepare the ground for women access to health services and suitable food during pregnancy and period of lactation.

Likewise, article 52 of the constitution defines that the state provides free health care and medical assistance to all citizens.

The state has to abide by its commitments against the national and international laws to increase allocation of the budget for heath services quantitatively and qualitatively and take positive steps for correction of wrong beliefs in the society, otherwise its bad consequences will affect not only the women, but the society at large.

3- Violence against women:

In addition to women's problems in various spheres of health and education, other serious and complex problems such as forced marriages, family violence, sexual harassments and prevention of women from social and political activities affect their life.

The majority of women both in rural and urban areas are faced with family violence.  A research contacted by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission on domestic violations against women shows that more than

 50 % of women, in addition to suffering from other types of violence have been beaten and only 10% of the women expressed that they had no economic problem[6].

Domestic violation against women not only has serious physical and mental effects on women but it also causes other grave problems such as self emulation, sue aside , escape from the family, forced  prostitution and addiction to narcotic.

Statistic by the Commission indicates that from 9th Jadi 1384 to 1st of Sonbulla 1384, due to violence 462 women resorted to narcotic.

According to evaluations by the AIHRC, self emulation and killing of women in the western  zone and  in southeast of Afghanistan shows the highest figure as 150 cases of self emulation have been identified in the western zone and 34 such cases have been identified in south east zone. Therefore, the root causes of self emulation should be investigated deeply.

Escape from home is another issue emanated from domestic violence and family restrictions against women that mostly witnessed in south and south east areas. During the current year, 200 cases from Kandahar, 17 cases from south east zone, 12 cases from the east of the country have been reported.

During 1384, the commission has identified 197 cases of sue aside attempts in Herrat out of which 69 cases ended up with deaths. Similarly, 35 of such cases were reported from Kandahar province. The evaluations by the Commission show that most of these cases are caused by domestic violations against women. In most of the provinces domestic violence forces the women to prostitution.

The Commission's office in the eastern zone has identified 6 cases of women trafficking and 20 cases of women traded against narcotic were reported from Helmand during the current year. It is worth mentioning that such cases happen in most parts of Afghanistan.

In most parts of Afghanistan, lack of understanding and non awareness of the law has paved the ground for polygamy which is another cause of domestic violence against women.

In spite of seriousness of this issue in the Afghan society, no serious action has been taken in this regard. Furthermore, unclearness of this issue in the law, unawareness about the law, and incompatibility of the civil code with the constitution as will as instability in Afghanistan have increased and complicated misusing of this matter. Therefore, it is necessary that the civil code in consideration of the constitution and international commitments of Afghanistan should be amended. 

Forced marriages:

Forced marriages constitute the other serious problems of women in Afghanistan which is exercised on different ways and forms as to settle feuds (badal), Bad, threatening to payment of huge dowry, underage marriage, engaging in the very early days when a child is born. Widows are still considered as a heritage and are not allowed to marry other man willingly.

A Commission research shows that more than 38 % of women have been wedded off against their will and consent, and more than 50% of women have mentioned that they are not happy with their family life.([7])

Forced marriage is considered to be one of the main cases of women rights violation in all over the county. For instance only in Helmand Province 144 cases of forced marriage is registered by the Commission during this year mostly exercised as "badal" and huge payment of dowry. In many parts of Afghanistan marriages have taken place with intimidation by the powerful people, gunmen or in repayment for depts.

The studies made about forced marriage shows that the most important reason can be the society improper tradition and beliefs and lack of awareness in the families, poverty, and illiteracy. Impunity is the other reason of forced marriages contributing to the problems.

Article 16 of CEDAW reads; states parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent. Article 23 (3) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: no marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses. Universal declaration of Human Rights also emphasize on marriage with the consent of parties involved (article 16, 2).

In spite of so many stresses made in the international laws, domestic laws there is still many cases that can increase exercise of forced marriage and underage marriages. For example, in civil law the legal marriage age for girls is not clearly difined and from the other side based on article 71 of civil law (1) if a girl has not completed the legal age for marriage (16 years), article 70, her marriage shall be conducted by her father or by an authorized court it means that father can take decision about his daughters marriage even before she reaches 16. However the second paragraph of this article states that marriage and concluding of marriage contract is not allowed before 15. But unfortunately, practically we see that under the influence of improper traditions and customs and lack of punishment of violators, child marriage percentage is remarkably high. UNICEF announced 57 percent of girls are married before the age of sixteen. Therefore, the concept of child should be made clear in the law, and about registering of marriages and child births serious measures should be taken and about dealing with violators suitable practices should be organized. Furthermore, attempts should be made for uplifting of public awareness and struggle against bad traditions in the community.

Rape:

Rape is another issue that has been studied in this research. As other problems of Afghan women this problem also exists in most parts of Afghanistan. This kind of assaults mostly has taken place in the country during the last years by armed men.

Enjoyment of just and fair protection of judiciary:

The other noticeable issue that should be emphasized on in our country is just and fair protection of women in judiciary courts. Because the women rights in the country is by many way through social, cultural and educational reasons are violated and women can not do any thing in this regard, but referring to judicial courts and this process is one of the rights that considered for women in constitution as well as international conventions such as International Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women as article 14 of this convention reads:

All are equal before the courts and tribunals. Everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal in accordance with the law.[8]  

Like this all women rights are recognized in the international and domestic instruments. Now we should see to what extent this rights are observed and practiced in our country. No doubt, there are great obstacles in Afghanistan preventing exercising of women rights. In an overview the judgment have been in a way that shows that women cases have been addressed discriminatory and unfairly and this vision comes from a census made by the AIHRC regional offices in the country zones which can be mentioned in some parts with its due reasons as follows:

In many provinces the women cases have been addressed with discrimination. Because of weak investigation, lack of ordinance, and rule of law, improper traditions and intimidation, women could rarely refer to justice for solving their disputes. Women prison doesn't exist in most of provinces, if any there are no prison standards for women and children to be applied.

For lack of family courts and women protecting laws women cases are addressed unfairly due to existence of a patriarchic system and improper traditions.

In some provinces even the women's files are not taken to courts. The courts don't pay attention to women complaints and decision is taken in absence of women the decisions are only announced and no right for women to file any defense as they are deprived of this right which is fundamental for thme. In many cases it is witnessed that the courts are ignoring women's demands.

Women and their activities in the social and civil institutions:

Like men women also have the right to take part in social and civil activities and establish institutions for their promotion and development. These are the rights that are emphasized upon in the international instruments particularly in International Convention of civil and political rights as well as in the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights also in the Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Fortunately the Islamic republic of Afghanistan has approved the mentioned instruments and has made attempts toward realization and full enjoyment of these rights. Therefore it is necessary to know about the present status of women in this regard. For this purpose the Commission has launched a public consultation the result of which is as follows:

There are not any such civil or political institutions established and run independently by women to manage their social activities, if any that are not so visible. From the other hand their activities in civil institutions are also in a very low profile.

This figure is different in provinces. In some provinces like Herat, Mazar, Kabul, Gardez, Nangarhar, Takhar their activities are noticeable but not in the other provinces.

Recommendations:

-modification and amendment of laws according to the CEDAW, and its implementation,

-the government should try to include the mater of gender as a main issue in the implementation of National Strategic Plan and focus on it in all its actions.

-The Afghanistan Government should build necessary capacity for preparing of reports to CEDAW Committee, and international society should support the related government organs and organizations in skill building, particularly the Ministry of Women Affairs.

-expanding of cultural activities and awareness

-Addressing the cases relating to violence against women through administrative, judicial and legal measures,

-All round attempts for uplifting of public awareness in different fields as education of girls, health and prevention from violence against women,

-The government should take necessary measures for the qualitative and quantitative development of girls education, paying attention to compulsory primary education based on Article 43 of the Constitution.

-Struggle against improper tradition aiming at improvement and ensuring of women rights and ensuring of family well-being through legislation, provincial councils and religious scholars.

-The Ministry of public health should adopt expansionary plans, establish health centers, and enhance women's access based on international standards with a due regard to women.

- Appropriate facilities and additional measures for women health staff to travel to distant areas of the country, and psychotherapy centers should be established.

- Establishing of official offices to register marriages, Divorces and manage official marriage contracts under all legal conditions

- Establishment of family courts with international standards in all over the country,

-Strengthening of rule of law through creating of strong law implementation structures and mechanisms.

 

[1] Statistical Almanac 1383, Central Census Bureau, p.39

[2] Report on Economic and Social Rights in Afghanistan, AIHRC, February 2006, p.16.

[3] Statistic almanac 1383, Central Census Beau rue, p.76

[4] National report on human development in Afghanistan, 2004

[5] Report on economic and social rights in Afghanistan, the AIHRC, Feb. 2006, pp.31-33

[6]  Research on  violence against women, Aqrab 1383, the AIHRC, p. 14

[7]  Research on violence against women, Aqrab 1383 AIHRC, page 13

[8] International Human Rights instruments, AIHRC 187/1387

Copyright notice: Copyright AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission)

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