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Afghanistan Launches Campaign To Curb Violence Against Women

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, also known as Bibi Gul.
Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, also known as Bibi Gul.

Afghanistan has launched a nationwide campaign to curb violence against women as government statistics show a rapid increase in gender-based violence.

Sayeda Muzhgan Mustafawi, Afghanistan's deputy minister of women’s affairs, told reporters in Kabul on November 25 that most reported cases of violence against women consisted of rape, beating and forced marriages.

"Most of these cases were registered in urban areas," she said. "Most parts of rural Afghanistan remain out of reach for human rights and civil society activists."

Her ministry has registered some 2,224 cases of violence against women in the past eight months, which marks a dramatic increase compared with last year.

"A lack of security prevents us from accessing most parts of the country where we believe the amount of violence against women is soaring," Mustafawi said.

November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It gives individuals and groups a chance to mobilize and call attention to the urgent need to end violence against women and girls around the world.

Elzira Sagynbaeva, the representative of UN Women in Afghanistan, said violence against women and girls remains endemic. "It constitutes a serious violation of human rights impeding women’s full realization of their civil, political, social, cultural and economic and development rights," she said in a statement on November 25.

"It is time for action when more than 80 percent of women in Afghanistan face violence in their lifetime. We need to strengthen implementation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law," she said. "We also need to place more focus on preventing violence against women and girls, which requires the engagement of all segments of society, and especially men and boys as partners in gender equality and respectful relationships."

Afghanistan's first lady, Rula Ghani, told RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan that her country needs to implement existing laws to provide a safer environment for Afghan women.

"I think there is already a lot that's being done. There are laws that are already there, and it's a question of now starting to implement them," she said. She also called for specific projects directed at changing attitudes toward women's rights, equality and freedoms.

The United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, called on the Afghan government to provide safety for women and girls so they can enjoy their freedom and contribute to nation-building.

"There should be no place in Afghanistan for violence and discrimination against women and girls, and every effort is needed to end the impunity for such violent crimes," he said.

The Afghan campaign also aims at raising awareness about women's rights to education, work and equality.