Sat, Dec 11, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Abuse of Afghan women still rife, UN report shows

THE GUARDIAN AND REUTERS, KABUL AND GARDEZ, AFGHANISTAN

Bibi Aisha, the Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, was a “lucky victim” because she survived her attack and got help, a top human rights official in the country said on Thursday.

While Aisha escaped her abusive family, the deputy chairman of the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission said many women in similar circumstances were less lucky.

“For sure, we have hundreds of Bibi Aishas in Afghanistan,” Ahmad Fahim Hakim said.

His remarks came after the news that one of the men responsible for attacking Aisha had been arrested, a development hailed by human rights workers as a sign the Afghan authorities are starting to take deep-rooted abuse of women seriously.

Hakim was speaking during the publication of a major UN report that showed how despite improvements in women’s rights the country is still blighted by forced marriages, the giving away of infant girls to future husbands to settle disputes, honor killings and desperate women resorting to death by self-immolation.

The report by the UN’s Afghanistan mission said that such practices are problems in all communities and cause “suffering, humiliation and marginalization for millions of Afghan women and girls.”

Despite recent efforts to toughen laws designed to protect women, the government does little to combat abuses, the report said.

One long-observed tradition covered by the report is the concept of baad, where a young girl will be given in marriage to settle disputes between families.

“Many of the women told us that, instead of the murderer being punished, an innocent girl is punished and has to spend her life in slavery and subject to cruel violence,” the UN’s director of human rights in Kabul Georgette Gagnon said.

The head of Afghanistan’s only specialist burns unit is quoted as saying that forced marriages are the main reason women try to commit suicide by setting themselves on fire.

According to figures quoted in the report, in 57 percent of Afghan marriages one of the partners is younger than 16.

Meanwhile, Afghan and foreign troops freed 18 kidnapped Afghan de-miners yesterday in southeastern Khost Province, the provincial police chief said.

The group from the Kabul-based Mine Detection Centre were kidnapped on Thursday in Musa Khel District by unidentified gunmen. It was the second abduction of a mine clearing team in Afghanistan this month.

Provincial Police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said the abductors fled when the de-miners were freed and there were no casualties on either side.

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