Grave Risk to Women’s Rights Without Heightened Commitment and Clear Plans
October 19, 2012

Secretary Clinton has been a big supporter of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Now she has a chance to leave a long-term legacy by turning the many commitments the US has made to women’s rights into a clear and viable strategy that is taken as seriously as military strategy.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(Kabul) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should publicly announce a strategy to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan before she leaves office in 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Clinton today. Women’s rights are increasingly at risk in the run-up to the scheduled drawdown of international troops at the end of 2014 and decreasing funding and attention to Afghanistan.

“The US and other countries have worked hard to create a security strategy for Afghanistan and have made plans to support the country’s soldiers and police after the 2014 drawdown,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But eleven years after the end of Taliban rule, women have no such commitment. Afghan women need and deserve a strategy of their own for the protection of their rights in the perilous years ahead.”

In the letter, Human Rights Watch urged the US government to:

  • Continue to press the Afghan government at the highest political levels to proactively promote and protect women’s rights and use women’s rights as a key indicator for measuring development and security;
  • Issue prompt public responses to Afghan government actions and statements that violate Afghanistan’s domestic and international obligations to the rights of women and girls;
  • Push for women-friendly leadership in key Afghan institutions;
  • Ensure a central role for women in all Afghan peace-building processes;
  • Press for enforcement of Afghanistan’s Law on Elimination of Violence against Women.
  • Make basic human rights for women a key US funding priority in Afghanistan;
  • Ensure Afghanistan’s security strategy focuses not just on support for military and police but also on security for women and girls; and
  • Organize and promote broad international support for this strategy.

Human Rights Watch’s letter outlined the serious challenges Afghan women still face, including:

  • Limited access to education;
  • Early and forced marriage;
  • High maternal mortality;
  • Threats against women in public life;
  • Lack of access to justice;
  • Impunity for violence against women; and
  • The imprisonment of women for “moral crimes,” which are often no more than fleeing domestic violence.

On May 2, 2012, the US government signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government that emphasizes Afghanistan’s commitment to “ensure and advance the essential role of women in society, so that they may fully enjoy their economic, social, political, civil, and cultural rights.”

“Secretary Clinton has been a big supporter of women’s rights in Afghanistan,” said Adams. “Now she has a chance to leave a long-term legacy by turning the many commitments the US has made to women’s rights into a clear and viable strategy that is taken as seriously as military strategy.”

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