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Report by Human Rights Watch Associate Director for Women’s Rights, Heather Barr

The plight of Afghan women under the Taliban was used in many countries to convince voters to support the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on the US. “Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women,”…
Women gather to demand their rights under Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 3, 2021.
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Her job had been going well, the woman told me. But her married boss started making sexual advances, which she rebuffed. Then he gave her a gift — a clock. She put it in her bedroom, but the light bothered her, so she kept moving it. “But every…
Women protest to demand stronger government action to fight the spread of intimate photos and footage taken by hidden cameras in Seoul, South Korea, July 7, 2018.
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On the campaign trail and during his first three months in office, President Biden promised a US return to a multilateral foreign policy that supports human rights. That is an important vision for the Middle East, a region often destabilized…
President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy, at the State Department in Washington, February 4, 2021. 
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Forcing Parental Involvement in Abortion Violates Rights

A law in the US state of Illinois that forces people under 18 to involve an adult family member in their abortion decision is failing some of the state’s young people and violating their human rights. In a new joint report with the American Civil…
An illustration of scales imposed over a woman's torso
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Last July, I spoke with Sky H., a 20-year–old who identifies as non-binary and grew up in a very conservative rural town in the Black Belt region of Alabama. In school, Sky received abstinence-only…
Desks in an empty classroom
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This is a moment of both fear and hope for Afghan women — and an urgent time for the world to support their hard-won rights. The Feb. 29 deal between the US and the Taliban could pave the way for a peace that Afghans desperately seek.…
Women walk along a street in the old part of Kabul February 29, 2020.
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On February 9, Ingrid Escamilla became one of the latest victims of Mexico’s ongoing wave of gender-based violence. The 25-year-old woman was brutally murdered, allegedly by her boyfriend, in their Mexico City apartment. The next day, a tabloid…
Thousands march in protest against rising femicide rates and kidnappings of women in Mexico City, Mexico on February 2, 2019.
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When Abba M. learned that a sexual partner had exposed her to the human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, she did “a bunch of Googling.” The 21-year-old Alabama resident knew very little about it. Turning to her friends proved…
A billboard by the Alabama Department of Public Health in Eutaw, Greene County, raises awareness of recommended adolescent vaccines, including the HPV vaccine.
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What does it mean to be a human rights voter? Support candidates who want the government to adopt and enforce laws that promote and protect human rights. This means candidates who defend people from abusive systems, officials, individuals, and…
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In late 2018, Sierra Leone's First Lady, Fatima Bio, opened a national campaign "Hands Off Our Girls."   Her campaign made big promises to reduce child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the country, in part to tackle the…
“Angela,” 20, walks with her son near her home after returning from school in Migori county, western Kenya
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The UK Should Urge Him to Keep Promises on Girls’ Education

Pakistan’s new government has promised to fix one of the country’s biggest conundrums—how to get more girls into school. The UK—which gives more aid to Pakistan than any other country, much of it for education—should both push and help Imran Khan’s…
Two students at a free non-government school for poor children in the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan.
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From October 7 until the end of the year, Brazilian women work for free. That’s one way of picturing the gender-based pay discrimination that haunts Brazilian businesses. Brazilian men earn in about nine months the same as…
Women protest Brasilia
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When Saudi Arabia announced in September that it would, at last, lift the ban on women driving on June 24, 2018, I thought I would be celebrating a milestone that took brave Saudi women’s rights activists nearly three decades to achieve. Instead, as…
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On May 14, the Kenyan justice system failed women miserably. The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kenya, petitioned the High Court, challenging the provisions of section 7 of the Matrimonial Property Act, 2013. The section makes ownership of…
Two widows in eastern Zimbabwe, facing harassment from in-laws who are trying to force them to vacate their homes and fields. Rural Eastern Zimbabwe, October 2016.
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Honorable Cristina Pardo Schlesinger Justice of the Constitutional Court of Colombia Rapporteur of Case T-6.612.909   Case: T-6.612.909 Subject: Human Rights Watch amicus curiae brief …
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Though there is dissent about its origin, the first celebration of Mother’s Day was a war protest, one envisioned as a day of peace by Julia Ward Howe—a fascinating woman—whose proclamation in 1870 urged women to come together first to “bewail and…
The maternity ward is show at the newly constructed Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center hospital in San Diego, California , U.S., April 17, 2017.