Women's Rights in Afghanistan

When the UK and USA entered Afghanistan in 2001, they promised to improve the lives of Afghan women. In the past ten years, some progress has been made, especially in the areas of education, the right to work and increased freedom of movement outside the home. However, women still continue to suffer discrimination and violence in Afghanistan. This includes child and forced marriage, sexual and domestic violence, and baad, the exchange of women and girls as payment or to settle disputes. Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman according to a recent report from Trustlaw.

Bonn and Beyond

This is a crucial time for women in Afghanistan as talks, meetings and negotiations that will decide the future of their county are taking place. On 5 December 2011, representatives from 90 countries and international organisations met in Bonn, Germany to discuss transition, international long-term engagement, and peace and reconciliation. We asked the UK government to help to make sure that women’s voices are heard before, during and after these talks. Regional discussions were also held in Istanbul on 2 November 2011 to focus on transition and regional economics and more discussion will be held in the upcoming year.

Women who are active in public life, including parliamentarians, provincial councillors and women active in NGOs, face attacks and threats from the Taleban and other armed groups. Unless women’s rights are made central to the reconciliation process, the pressure on women seeking to enter public life may increase.

The Afghan Women's Network

Despite the challenges they face, there is a growing and courageous women's movement in Afghanistan. The Afghan Women’s Network is a network of women and women’s NGOs working to empower Afghan women and ensure their equal participation in Afghan society. After consultation with groups all over the country, they have produced the position paper "Afghan Women Towards Bonn and Beyond" (6 October 2011).

They are asking the international community to:

1)        Use their influence to ensure women have an effective voice and role in all levels of the peace process: national, provincial and district level.

2)        Work with the Afghan government to ensure that all the human rights in the constitution are upheld in any peace settlement. These include women's right to an education and the right to participate in political life with a guaranteed 25% female quota in parliament.

3)        Increase support to development programmes that promote women's rights and wellbeing in political, social and economic spheres.

In July 2010, just one woman was invited to the Kabul conference, an important moment in the process for peace in Afghanistan. We cannot let this happen again – peace can only be durable when the voices of women are heard.

Find out more:

  • - More resources on Afghanistan can be found here
  • - Read the latest post from our partner Ch16.org on women's rights activism in Afghanistan.
  • - A recent article in The Independent about the issues can be found here.
  • Listen to the BBC Interview with Samira Hamidi, Director of Afghan Women's Network on women's rights in Afghanistan.
  • - Read the recent report from the Afghan Women's Network, UNSCR 1325: Implementation in Afghanistan for an in depth look at the issues.

Watch this video on the issues by Channel 16: