Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Advancing Gender Equality in Afghanistan

After 17 years of out setting the Taliban regime and establishing a democratic governance system in Afghanistan, violence against women is still endemic in our country due to a climate of impunity and weak state action. Discriminatory legislation and a dysfunctional criminal justice system have contributed vastly to put women at grave risk in Afghanistan. Women are one of the main targets of the extremist terrorist groups that gender oppression tops their overt agenda of expanding violent extremism across the country, the region and beyond. Women’s security is especially alarming in the Helmand, Kunduz, and other areas that the terrorist armed groups and illegal armed groups operate freely due to absence of rule of law or weak rule of law. It is a common issue to hear of killing or tutoring of women in Afghanistan; an issue that usually is not addressed duel by the rule of law and justice institutions.
Women and other minority social groups have been the principal victims of state policies in Afghanistan. After the Taliban regime was toppled, there has been some progress in Afghanistan, specifically through progressive legislation. However, the best laws will only provide little protection as long as the social attunes and perceptions toward women remain biased, and police is not capable to or is not held accountable for investigating gender based crimes, and the judiciary fails to give justice to women survivors of violence and either the discriminatory laws remain in place or anti-discriminatory laws just remain on the papers.
The National Unity Government has taken some specific measures in terms of protecting and empowering women; these include taking legislative and administrative steps in this regard. However, most of the government policies remain on paper or are implemented partially.  Full protection of women in Afghanistan requires to end institutionalized violence and discrimination against them, including removing unjust laws, countering extremist threats across Afghanistan and especially in the remote areas. And involving women and including their perspectives in development of state policies that directly affect women, and developing practical strategies to protect them against violent extremist groups and domestic violence.
The government of Afghanistan constitutional obligation and international commitments, calls it to take specific measures to ensure the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); The NUG has pledged the nation and international community to combat gender inequality and take all the necessary measures to remove such barriers to women’s empowerment in Afghanistan. Eliminating discriminatory legislation and practices and enforcing laws that protect women is the sole responsibility of the government. And it shallensure that they have access to a gender-responsive police and courts, in order to end the impunity that promotes violence against women in the country.
Women’s rights violations is widespread in the country and it is alarming in the certain parts of the country including the remote areas or the areas where the terrorist armed groups are present. In these areas women are more subjected to discrimination, militant violence, religious extremism and sexual violence. Every and then, militants target women’s rights activists, political leaders and development workers without consequences and even they are captured are not punished dully. In many parts of Afghanistan, informal justice mechanisms are widely practiced, which are also highly discriminatory toward women inherently. At the same time, the government’s military operations, in some cases have further aggravated the challenges women face in the conflict zones that requires the government to reconsider its operations policies in order to ensure women protection in the context of military operations as well.
On the other hand, research findings show that women’s meaningful presence in policy decision making, including political and economic participation, is central to sustainable reform in any country.  As a result, Afghanistanhas to invest in the women empowerment and reflect their priorities in all government policies, including counter-insurgency, peacebuilding and administrative reform efforts.Yet, giving women equal access to resources and equal opportunities is not enough, but the government also should give them the means and tools in order to benefit from equality mechanisms that have put in place for them. To ensure this, the government needs to ensure gender equity, a mechanism that realizes the fairness in the way women and men are treated in a given context. As women have a lower status in our society they need gender equity to redress this inequality in order to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities provided to them. As a result, gender equity is vital to achieve gender equality in our society.
Violence against women is one of the main challenges to the Afghan government. It not only shall put in place practical women protection policies but more importantly than that is to ensure they are implemented indiscriminately. Further, including women in policy making decisions and ensuring their participation in political and economic decision making processes will improve the overall outcomes of these processes. And it can contribute to closing the gender gap in Afghanistan.