Frontline World

Afghanistan - A House for Haji Baba, Ocotber 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "A House for Haji Baba"

Behind the Lens

Danger, Determination and Destiny

Politics, Security, Health, Education

Government, Population, Economy

Background, Reconstruction Efforts, Warlordism




Invisible Women
Politics: Struggling to Speak Security: Fear and Violence Health: A Risky Place to Be Female Education: Learning for Change

Security: Fear and Violence

Despite new freedoms, fear of being a victim of violence or male harassment, or both, still prevents many women and girls from attending school, working outside the home, traveling alone or appearing in public without a burqa. "We couldn't go out during the Taliban [rule]," one rural woman told Human Rights Watch. "Now we are free and we can go out, but we don't."

Amnesty International reports that forced marriage, rape and the abduction of women are still common, particularly in areas ruled by warlords and armed factions. According to Amnesty International, these crimes for the most part go unpunished because Afghanistan's criminal justice system "is too weak to offer effective protection of women's right to life and physical security, and itself subjects them to discrimination and abuse." In some areas of the country, women are prosecuted for consensual sex outside of marriage and for running away from home. Some women endangered by violence from family members have been jailed for their own safety.

This lack of security has widespread implications for reconstruction efforts. Masuda Sultan, program director of Women for Afghan Women, said that on a recent trip to Kandahar, she had found "a very palpable fear in the air." She met a female hygiene worker who felt threatened when she traveled from village to village to teach people about sanitation. "She was afraid for herself, but even more afraid for her daughters, who were home alone when she was away at work. She was full of fear that her daughters would be punished because she was working." The woman kept her job anyway.


2003 United Nations report on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch report on widespread abuses in southeast Afghanistan

Amnesty International report on Afghan women's lack of security

• POLITICS: Struggling to Speak
• SECURITY: Fear and Violence
• HEALTH: A Risky Place to Be Female
• EDUCATION: Learning for Change

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