Women in Afghanistan are choosing suicide to escape “their dire circumstances,” according to a new report issued by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department. Even in the relatively peaceful region of Herat, over 80 women reportedly set themselves on fire in 2008.
Consider women’s situation in Afghanistan. Last year, a law was passed that legalized marital rape, and although President Hamid Karzai temporarily withdrew it due to international outrage, he pardoned two men guilty of gang rape. Human Rights Watch found in one survey that an astonishing 87 percent of female respondents had undergone “forced marriage or at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological violence.” (HRW) In addition, according to the Afghan Penal Code, victims of rape can be penalized for adultery.
The organization Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is calling for the Canadian government to put more emphasis on women’s rights before the nation’s 2011 deadline for withdrawal. “As Canadians we have a moral and ethical responsibility to support the women of Afghanistan,” says the organization’s treasurer Penny Christensen.
Meanwhile in the U.S., as President Obama plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, the Center for American Progress has urged the administration to include women’s rights as a vital part of its agenda. Peter Juul of CAP notes, “Women’s security is a leading indicator of instability, and as such will provide a valuable means for determining the success of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.” In the 2009 Appropriations Bill passed in June, Senator Barbara Boxer secured $30 million for women-led NGOs in Afghanistan.
Do the U.S. and other nations currently in Afghanistan have the responsiblity of securing women’s rights? Voice your opinion below.