According to President Obama, the new law that would effectively make rape legal in Afghanistan is “abhorrent”. But as the AP reports,
“Obama also said that while improving conditions in Afghanistan is a commendable goal, people need to remember that the primary reason that U.S. troops are fighting there is to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.”
In other words, make no mistake about it, Afghan women’s human rights are no more a priority now than they were under the Bush administration (although at least Obama has the class not to use them as an excuse to justify U.S. military actions) and in an article for the Women’s Media Center, Patricia DeGennaro points out that, “Afghan women continue to be absent from the discussion when it comes to their futures and the future of Afghanistan.” As Sonali Kolhatkar, Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission puts it, this is just part of the continuum of “trading Afghan women’s rights for political gain” and appeasing “misogynist fundamentalists to obtain stability”.
And indeed, the atrocities being committed against women in Afghanistan continue, with RAWA reporting that, “a husband decapitated his wife in northern Jozjan province” and that Afghan hospitals recorded 600 suicide attempts last year, most of them women. In addition, malnutrition is a huge problem with much food aid not reaching the most vulnerable women and children.
It is important at this juncture, as Obama is leading the U.S. to increase its military presence in Afghanistan, to make clear the devastating impact that militarism has on the lives of Afghani women. As Madre makes clear, the abuse of women’s rights cannot be “eliminated by force”:
The Bush Administration justified the invasion of Afghanistan by pointing to the Taliban’s systematic abuse of women. But subsequent US policies in Afghanistan did not uphold women’s human rights. As a result:
- 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
- 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan
- Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
- 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
- 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
- 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
Clearly, additional military action will make the lives of women and children in Afghanistan even more precarious and hard questions must be asked of Mr. Obama regarding in what way additional military action in Afghanistan makes the United States safer and how the implicit additional danger this creates for Afghan women and children can possibly be an acceptable consequence.