International Women’s Day, (8th of March) is an event marked by women’s groups around the world when they get together and exercise their voices of solidarity, advocating peace, equity, equality, and human rights. This particular day is an important opportunity to increase awareness of gender equality, introduce their achievements, and offer best-suited solutions to the challenges that their local communities are facing in their day-to-day living circumstances.
The celebration of International Women’s Day was celebrated as a political vision and its early messages remain still effective. The day was initially launched at a conference for women workers in Copenhagen in 1910 to bring gender equality between men and women, and root out the tradition of violence and discrimination against women throughout the world. In the first half of the 20th century, International Women’s Day was intimately linked with women’s struggle for their political rights and their right to work, and participate in social, political, and economic affairs of their state.
Throughout the turbulent decades of wars, it also became a day when women became tired of losing their husbands, brothers and sons to the wars came together advocating for peace. It is then a very appropriate day to commemorate in Afghanistan where women’s struggles are so much tied to political participation, economic survival, and where all progress is hampered by continuing conflict, and unbroken discrimination against women, and ethnic minorities.
Since the fall of Taliban regime, (8th of March) has been celebrated in large groups in various parts of the country to make sure that women can be a part of the change and appreciate their contribution for the wellbeing of our society. The event created extraordinary space for Afghan women to break the cycle of hatred and violence against women. This occasion invites all equally to appreciate the power of women who can play greater role in making changes in their own lives, and encourages them to be a part of the change and the constructive contribution to the sustainable development of Afghanistan.
In this occasion, they raise their voices to uphold women’s achievements, recognize challenges, and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilize all people to do their part in our conservative society. Yet, the event will also create space for women to offer best possible solutions to the ground challenges that they are facing. While there have been many achievements since the fall of the Taliban regime, many serious gaps still remain and violence hit record high last year, particularly in the past nine months.
It is no surprise that for the last 30-years, Afghanistan has been in turmoil, leaving it one of the world’s least developed nations with worst record about violation of human rights, and gender equality. Violation of human rights by gross human rights violators was a daily practice in which women suffered the worst with miserable devastations and annihilation. The civil society, law enforcement agencies are weak to protect women from violence, and democratic government set up is dependent on local commanders and warlords.
However, 13-years have passed since the U.S and NATO invaded Afghanistan, the promised peace and democracy remain a receding horizon in an ambiguous socio political scenario.
Although such progress has been made, discrimination and abuse of women continues. Domestic violence and forced marriages are all too common, and many women in the country suffer from poor access to legal resources and exclusion from public life.
There is equality between all citizens on paper in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has already signed and ratified key international human rights treaties that, if nothing else, ensures its performance is regularly scrutinized by the UN and other governments. The Afghan constitution also includes an emphasis on the equal rights of men and women, and laws like the law on violence against women provides additional tools for those working for women’s rights and against domestic violence. Despite the legal changes are systematic and well planned, they are still one-step towards equality.
However, while it is significant how women are portrayed in the public debate for the overall trends for or against women’s rights, equally important are the everyday negotiations for education, work, and political participation that women and their supporters do within their families, on the streets and in the workplace.
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported that more than 4,250 cases of violence against women have been recorded in the past more than nine months. A number of analysts have said that the main factor behind the growing rate of violence against women is the non-implementation of law, which is, only drafted on the paper.
The year 2014 was reported to be the worst year for women that ended with numerous abuses and violence. In recent days, cases of violence against women have made headlines including beheading, immolations, gang rap, execution, exchanging of females, tortures and other acts of brutalities. Based on the statistics of the commission, 50 cases out of the 4,250 are murders, 40 sexual abuse including gang rap, 85 child marriages, 1,129 cases of tortures and 16 cases of selling the women.
Violence against women in Afghanistan has risen at a time where President Ashraf Ghani had pledged to solve the issue during his election campaigns. Several women rights activists have called on the leaders of the National Unity Government to address their commitments in eliminating violence against women, and persecute the violators. High scale of poverty, addiction, traditional values, illiteracy, and lack of awareness were among the fundamental reasons of the growing rate of violence against women.
The government needs turn their promises made during their presidential campaign into reality. The men-dominated society remained inactive and the authorities should not be limited to the armchair viewers, but rather double the effort beyond their views to make sure women are protected. The law drafted on the paper needs to be implemented with particular focus on women rights to make sure that they are not excluded from social and political affairs of the state and their perpetrators are brought to the court of justice.
At the same time, many Afghan women’s realities are harsher than much of what can be put on paper. Therefore, if some limits to the violence they suffer would actually be implemented, this would be a positive change. In the current context, this clearly suggests that women’s rights are a bargaining chip in the political power played between different actors, more specifically, in reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. The women and their supporters will need to struggle to ensure that the progress being made for women’s rights is not lost, but rather it is improved and protected.