Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 24th, 2017

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Who Listens?

Women’s rights are violated in many parts of the world, including democratic countries. Women are threatened in social media and harassed mentally and sexually. Their vulnerability is endemic. They are treated unfairly. There are lurid reports about women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, etc. Women fall victim to honor killings, traditional cultures, and radical mindset.
The dream of large number of women do not come true, mainly in Afghanistan. They are restricted by social obstacles and cultural hurdles. Although women are supposed to enjoy equal rights and freedoms with men, their rights are disregarded. Men often deem women as fair sex for satiating the carnal desire of men. Therefore, they fall victim to rape in many parts of the world. For instance, there are reports about raping women in democratic countries such as Pakistan and India. Those who cherish misogynistic idea or seek to justify their acts of violence, argue that women should dress properly in public places or else men will succumb to their charm – this was ridiculed by a woman when she wrote that women should dress properly “because men have eyes”.
Honor killing is a common practice in tribal belts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Furthermore, women are flagellated and stoned in desert courts in Afghanistan by tribal councils, consisting of tribal elders who cherish a highly traditional mindset and sometimes of the Taliban. The Taliban still seek to restrict women and curtail their role in the areas dominated by them. For example, in Moqor district of Ghazni province, where I lived for years, girls’ schools are closed since the Taliban are a serious threat. Women present in public places with burqa (a head-to-toe covering). If women unveil their faces, it will fill their families with a strong sense of anger. In areas where the Taliban dominate, people are highly traditional and will commit honor killings in case of being suspicious of their families’ behaviors.
Traditional culture holds strong sway in tribal areas of Pakistan, too. Women are subjugated to their spouses, brothers, fathers, etc. Unveiling their faces is considered a serious disdain for their families. That is to say, Taliban-styled tradition prevails in tribal areas in Pakistan. On the other hand, women fall victim to rape in cities, where mostly open-minded individuals reside. Moreover, scores of girls get married under the age of 18 in Pakistan. The Family Planning Association of Pakistan (FPAP) warned some years ago that one woman dies every 20 minutes during childbirth, and that the major cause for high maternal mortality ratio – 276 per 100,000 live births – is child marriage.
The United Nations Population Fund puts one in every four girls in developing countries into the category of marriage before 18, and one in nine under 15. But it is, at the very least, acknowledged as a detrimental and archaic practice, and great efforts should be made for its elimination.     
Ending child marriage is such an important international goal that eliminating the practice was added as a Sustainable Development Goal, to be achieved by 2030 as it “prioritized the prevalence of child marriage among girls as a key indicator of progress toward this target”.
This is in line with the findings of a research report published by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) that has found that Child marriage will cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030.
Moreover, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women states in article 2, “Countries must prohibit all discrimination against women by anyone, any groups and any companies and must change any law to protect women from discrimination”.
Many democratic countries have ratified international instruments including those upholding women’s rights. Similarly, the rights and dignity of men and women are equal in democratic countries and neither of them must be discriminated on the grounds of their gender. The fundamental rights of men and women – i.e., the rights to life, liberty, and property – are deemed natural and inalienable which means that the government neither bestowed such rights to people nor have the authority to deprive them of such rights.
There are many reasons behind violation of women’s rights, including child marriage. As it was mentioned above, radical mindset, cultural restriction, and patriarchal systems are the main reasons behind this act. But there are many other reasons as well. Those men who are not able to control their desire, will engage in violating women’s rights out of carnal desires. But they should be prosecuted by law for trampling upon both the rights and dignity of women. After all, all countries will have to work in tandem to put an end to child marriage and uphold women’s rights and dignity. Indeed, discrimination against women is no more tolerable since both men and women have equal rights based on international instruments.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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