Mon, May 30, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Abuse `still rife' for Afghan women: Amnesty

`LIKE ANIMALS' The human rights group says the Afghan government is doing little to address the plight of women, who are often being pressed into desperate circumstances

AP , KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Afghan women are in constant risk of abduction, rape and forced marriage and the government is doing little to address their plight, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released 3 years after the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime.

A spokeswoman for the Afghan Women's Affairs Ministry, Nooria Haqnagar, acknowledged that abuse was still rife and said, "In some remote areas, men deal with women like animals."

Amnesty called on the government and the international community to do more to improve the lives of women. The London-based organization said in the report titled "Afghanistan: Women under attack" that women are traded like commodities to settle debts and disputes and that some women commit suicide to escape being forced into marriages they don't want.

"Afghanistan is in the process of reconstruction after many years of conflict, but hundreds of women and girls continue to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, armed individuals," the report said.

"Societal codes, invoked in the name of tradition and religion, are used as justification for denying women the ability to enjoy their fundamental rights. Perceived transgressions of such codes have led to the imprisonment and even killing of some women," it added. "Some authorities treat women who run away to escape these situations as criminals and imprison them."

It urged the government to publicly condemn all violence against women and to reform the justice system so it is better equipped to protect women's rights. Haqnagar, the spokeswoman, said that the number of abuse cases reported to authorities had increased in recent months, with an average 10 women lodging complaints every day.

"In Herat province, women are burning themselves to escape abuse. They must have huge problems to take such violent measures against themselves," she said.

The spokeswoman, who is also the director of her ministry's awareness and education department, said improvements had been made for women in cities, where the central government's authority is strongest, but in remote rural areas where it has little control, few gains had been made. Haqnagar said teams from her ministry had been dispatched to 10 provinces to raise awareness about women's rights.

"We are trying our best to find solutions to these problems," she said.

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