In the ongoing reaction to the use of Afghan women’s lives and voices to make a pitch for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan, it is worth noting that unlike the United States, in 2003, Afghanistan ratified CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, widely recognized as a human rights declaration for women, which states,
The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
Despite that, back in February, at a conference discussing negotiations with the Taliban,
Afghan women were not included in the Afghan Government’s official delegation to the London conference and only one Afghan woman was permitted to speak on behalf of civil society as part of the official conference program.
That is emblamatic of the lipservice that is being given to women’s human rights under the U.S. backed Karzhai government.
The U.S. and Afghanistan are also bound by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for,
- Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making.
- Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict.
- Gender perspective in post-conflict processes.
- Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting and in SC missions.
- Gender perspective & training in UN peace support operations.
The Kabul Declaration from July, 2009 amplifies what this means in the case of Afghanistan and reads:
Women’s Participation in the Peace Process
The participants agreed that peace is defined beyond the military strucures of Police and army and in more comprehensive analysis could be described as rule of law in conformance of national constitution and international human rights.
Building on the comprehensive definition of the peace and security, the government and the international community should ensure that security is provided in its more comprehensive definition considering the special needs and interests of women and children.
• The government and the international community should ensure the implementation of International Humanitarian Law during the conflict.
• In order to increase the number of women in law enforcement agencies, the government and international community needs to pay special attention to capacity development, affirmative action special need and protection measures for women.
• Any peace negotiations should ensure women participation and protect the Constitutional human rights of the women.
• Serious disarmament should be initiated by the Government and supported by the international community to mitigate the threats that prevent women participation.
Women’s Political Participation and International Development Assistance
The meeting agreed that in confirmation with the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), 30% of government and political leadership positions should be reserved for women who are effective and committed to the women cause, at all levels inclduing the high level leadership. The Afghan women movement is committed to assist the government in identifying these women.
• The Government should take concrete measures to ensure the proper implementation of the ANDS to improve women’s participation in accordance to the above mentioned commitment.
• The international community should mainstream gender concerns in all the programmes it supports and should also lobby for more women’s participation in senior positions with in the government.
• A percentage of development funds should be agreed on for women-specific programmes es and initiatives.
• Civil society organisations should strengthen their capacities to coordinate and network more effectively for gender empowerment.
• The capacity of the parliament should be strengthened to understand and support gender matters in order to effectively monitor and hold accountable the executive agencies of the government.
The meeting participants agreed that security has many complex dimensions such as physical, psychological, societal and military. Poverty aggravates insecurity in the population, including among women and children.
• Government of Afghanistan should speed up the establishment of a national action plan for the implementation of UNSCR 1325.
• The governmnet of Afghanistan should on urgent basis, initiate national policy and mechanism to eliminate the sexual harassment in all governmental and non governmental working, educational and public places.
• The government and international community should recognise the role of communities and civil society groups to determine and take ownership of any local development plans for creating security in their lives.
The regional meeting proposes to the United Nations to assign a UN special rapporteur for the monitoring the implementation of United Nations Security Resolution 1325.
The participants from the five countries committed themselves to follow-up on the implementation of the above recommendations and will also pursue the establishment of a regional monitoring body to oversee the progress of UNSCR 1325 in Afghanistan and the region,
It is abundantly clear that neither Afghanistan or the United States in its presence in Afghanistan are in compliance with these accepted international frameworks of women’s human rights, including the now documented use of women’s lives as a justification for military action by the U.S. If we are truly concerned with the lives of Afghan women and women throughout the world whose human rights are under siege, we must demand that substantive steps be taken to adhere to CEDAW, UNSC 1325 and other human rights declarations and resolutions.