[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Tuesday called on the Afghan government to protect the rights of women [press release] during integration and reconciliation efforts conducted with the Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and other militants. In a report, Ten-Dollar Talib [materials], the human rights organization criticized recent actions taken by the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to end the ongoing conflict with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, claiming they ignored women’s rights in favor of reaching an expedient resolution. HRW criticized what it called politically motivated actions that undermine women’s rights, such as Karzai’s signing [JURIST report] of the Shia Personal Status Law [Reuters backgrounder], and his pardon of two convicted rapists. HRW explained:
The Afghan government and its international supporters have ignored the need to protect women in programs to reintegrate insurgent fighters and have not guaranteed that women’s rights will be included in potential talks with the Taliban[.] … Afghan women shouldn’t have to give up their rights so the government can cut a deal with the Taliban[.] … It would be a tragic betrayal to snatch away the progress made by and for women and girls over the past nine years.
In avoiding this result, HRW renewed its previous call [JURIST report] for the immediate repeal of a law that became effective in January that allows immunity for Taliban fighters who join the reconciliation process, which it described as an abdication of Afghanistan’s obligation under international law to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. HRW also urged the Afghan government to require that all militants participating in the reconciliation process explicitly affirm their support for gender equality, as mandated by Article 22 of the Afghan Constitution [text]. The report went on to criticize the international community, including the UN, US and NATO, which HRW says has failed to provide adequate oversight of the reconciliation process and has ignored women’s rights in favor of bringing the war to an end.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan faced significant opposition under the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996-2001. This rights situation has been ameliorated since the US-led invasion, but continues to face opposition from Afghan government officials and militants. In August 2009, HRW criticized the Shia Personal Status Law as violating the Afghan Constitution and severely undermining women’s rights, despite an announcement the previous month [JURIST reports] that provisions requiring a wife to submit to sex with her husband and to obtain his permission before leaving the home were removed. In April 2009, 300 Afghan women protested the law [JURIST report] and were confronted by 1,000 counter-protesters, some of whom threw stones and gravel at the women. Earlier that month, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing Sitara Achakzai [JURIST report], an Afghan politician and women’s rights advocate, outside her home. In 2006, Safia Hana Jan, another women’s rights advocate and director of the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kandahar [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], was killed by armed gunmen [JURIST report] after she publicly criticized the Taliban.