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For Survivors of Abuse, Shelters Offered Lifeline

“My parents warned me they will kill me if I ever leave this shelter,” Najla, a woman of about 30, told me. “The worst thing is that I don’t have anyone to support me.” She has been in a shelter in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat for several years…
Afghan women sew in their bedroom at a women's shelter in Kabul, March 20, 2017. A non-descript building tucked away in a residential neighborhood is one of the few hidden sanctuaries where battered women can seek support. 
Report
Summary The international reconstruction effort in Afghanistan after 2001 created an opportunity to advance human rights, and women’s and girls’ rights in particular. Although its achievements have fallen short of what was envisioned, significant…
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International Women’s Day Should Prompt Real Reforms

As 2020 drew to a close, protesters across South Asia took to the streets, calling on their governments to take widespread sexual violence against women and children seriously, and to implement real reforms. But rather than listening to experts and…
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Death Penalty Push Ignores Real Solutions to Regional Failings

(New York) – South Asian governments should disregard populist death penalty rhetoric and listen to their own experts to prevent and end sexual violence against women, Human Rights Watch said in a video released today. Experts on sexual violence from…
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‘Motorway Incident’ Protests Show Urgent Need for Police Reform

“Azaadi!” – or “freedom!” – women chanted on the streets of major cities across Pakistan on Saturday, as they protested police handling of a case known as the “motorway incident” – a shocking rape of a woman by multiple assailants. A police chief’s…
Women demonstrate to condemn the police response to the of rape of a woman by a highway, Islamabad, Pakistan, September 12, 2020.
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28 years after Kunan and Poshpora, abuses still persist

February 23 sticks in my mind the way a birthday does for most people. After my first 10 years of Bharatanatyam training, I performed my arangetram — a classical dancer’s debut full-length solo recital — on that day in 2013. In telling…
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News

Police Training, Justice Reform Crucial for Holding Assailants Accountable

A fact long-hidden in Pakistan, shrouded in the silence of stigma, is now official. A government report has found that child sexual abuse is disturbingly common in Pakistan, with 141 cases reported in the city of Lahore alone since…
People chant slogans and hold signs to condemn the rape and killing of 7-year-old girl Zainab Ansari in Kasur, during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan January 11, 2018.
News

Policy Bans Government Doctors from Conducting Abusive Tests

A new policy in Afghanistan promises to bar government health workers from engaging in the abusive practice of forcing women and girls to undergo invasive and medically meaningless vaginal and anal exams to determine whether they are “…
A demonstrator attends a rally outside the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, Belgium, October 5, 2016.
News

Reports of Ill-Treatment Show Need for Transparency, Monitoring

(Paris) – Uzbek authorities should immediately and unconditionally release an Afghan citizen whose 13-year imprisonment and alleged torture in custody have only recently become known, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International…
A guard in a solitary confinement block at an unidentified prison in Uzbekistan. Prisoners in solitary confinement in Uzbekistan’s prisons experience cramped cells without bedding—some in total darkness, others with permanent bright lights
News

Groundbreaking 2009 Law Hasn’t Brought Justice for Victims

It seemed like a breakthrough. In 2009, when then-President Hamid Karzai signed Afghanistan’s Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law), women’s rights activists celebrated a hard-won victory. They looked to a future…
Members of civil society organizations chant slogans during a protest to condemn the killing of 27-year-old woman, Farkhunda, who was beaten with sticks and set on fire by a crowd of men in central Kabul in broad daylight on Thursday, in Kabul March 24, 2
News

Protests Erupt After 7-Year-Old Girl Raped and Killed

Yesterday, Pakistani news anchor Kiran Naz went on the air with her young daughter to protest on camera the rape and killing of Zainab Ansari, a 7-year-old girl, whose body was dumped in a pile of garbage. “It is true when…
People chant slogans and hold signs to condemn the rape and killing of 7-year-old girl Zainab Ansari in Kasur, during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan January 11, 2018.
News

Abusive ‘Virginity Exams’ Re-Traumatize Victims

“I will never report such a case again,” said Farida, a midwife in rural Afghanistan, after a judge humiliated her in a public courtroom for her efforts to document a case of sexual assault involving two child victims. Farida…
An Afghan woman in Chaghchran capital of Ghor province June 2, 2014.
News

Women, Religious Groups, Refugees Endure Violence, Intimidation

(New York) – Pakistan’s government did little to protect vulnerable groups and religious minorities from attack by militant groups in 2016, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2017. The authorities clamped down on civil society groups for…
Supporters of the Gender Interactive Alliance dance and chant slogans as they pose with a national flag ahead of the Independence Day in Karachi, August 13, 2016.
Report
Summary I have no hope of getting justice in this crooked system. —Umar Daraz, Karachi, January 2016 How do you expect us to recover stolen items from hardened criminals? Do you think they will agree if we say, ‘Be nice to us and return…
News
Pakistan’s Supreme Court this week recognized the enormity of the country’s problem of enforced disappearances with a simple directive: identify the bodies. On February 10, the Supreme Court asked federal and provincial governments to ensure that “…
News
On Saturday, something rare occurred in Afghanistan: a Kabul court convicted a man of raping a 10-year-old girl. Rapes are rarely reported and even less frequently tried in Afghan courts. But the victim, Hamida (her real name withheld to protect her…
News

President Ghani Should Back Sweeping Reforms Now

(New York) – Afghanistan’s new government should take urgent steps to combat sexual harassment of women in education, employment, and public life, Human Rights Watch said today. There are no laws in Afghanistan that specifically prohibit sexual harassment…
News
On September 15, the Kabul Appeals Court turned a blind eye to serious flaws in the handling of the notorious Paghman gang rape case and upheld death sentences for five of the defendants. Two others were sentenced to 20 years in prison. The crime was…