The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon heard from representatives of civil society on the situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova and Kiribati, whose reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women will be reviewed this week.
With the peace negotiations underway, this was a critical time for Afghanistan, said the speakers, who raised concerns about the secrecy of the talks. The absence of the meaningful representation of women in the peace talks raised a fear that the rights of women and other hard-gained achievements of the post-Taliban period might be traded away. The speakers highlighted concerns about relentless attacks, intimidation, harassment and violence against human rights defenders, and about the lack of implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law - the only law that criminalized 18 acts of gender-based violence and recognized gender-specific crimes.
During the discussion, the Afghan Women’s Network, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Afghanistan, and Women for Justice spoke on Afghanistan.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 February to consider the third periodic report of Afghanistan (CEDAW/C/AFG/3).
Statements by Non-governmental Organizations
Afghan Women’s Network, in a joint statement, said that this was a critical time for Afghanistan as peace negotiations were underway. Afghan people, including women, had started questioning the peace talks and had raised their concern about their secrecy. There was a fear that the peace talks might trade away the rights of women and other hard-gained achievements that Afghanistan had made during the post-Taliban period. The speakers also highlighted a concern about the protection of human rights defenders who suffered relentless attacks, intimidation, harassment and violence. Informal justice, like the local jirgas, which only had male members, was highly patriarchal and based on social attitudes that were harmful to women’s well-being.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Afghanistan noted the continued absence of the meaningful representation of women in peace talks, including in informal talks between the United States and Taliban in 2019, in which only 5 per cent of participants had been women. Noting that during the 2018 and 2019 elections many Afghans had stayed home for fear of violence, the speaker called on Afghanistan to assess challenges that women faced during elections and implement a national anti-corruption strategy.
Women for Justice was concerned about the implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law – the only law that criminalized 18 acts of gender-based violence and recognized gender-specific crimes - as in many cases the perpetrators were not prosecuted. Many women withdrew complaints due to their dependency on their husbands and the fear of losing their children, and there were several cases of powerful perpetrators obstructing justice. The 1976 Civil Law discriminated against women in matters of child marriage, divorce, custody, matrimonial property, among others. Afghanistan should adopt the reformed family law - pending since 2016 – that would recognize women’s equal status in marriage and family.
In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts noted that in Afghanistan, internal trafficking in persons was becoming a significant problem – what could the non-governmental organizations do to protect women from this form of abuse and exploitation? What could be done to prevent the use of women as a bargaining chip in the peace negotiations and what was the role of the Ministry for Peace?
Responding, the non-governmental organizations from Afghanistan said that there were no shelters for victims of trafficking in persons. Taliban never wanted women to participate in the political process, but the Government had an obligation to raise the question of the exclusion of half of the Afghani population from the decision-making. It must implement the peace roadmap and the existing laws. The High Peace Council was responsible for peace-related issues, while the recently-establishment Ministry of Peace was responsible for peace implementation. The relationship between the two bodies was not completely clear.
HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, thanked the civil society organizations and recognized their unique role in the strengthening of women’s rights. The Chair hoped for ever stronger collaboration and cooperation.
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