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HRW Urges Karzai To Act On Violence Against Women

An Afghan woman pictured here with her daughter (file photo)
Human Rights Watch has called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to take urgent action to fight child marriage and domestic violence.

The call came in an open letter to Karzai presenting a 15-page HRW briefing paper that highlights the health and economic consequences of marriage under age 18 and violence against women and girls.

Heather Barr, HRW's Afghanistan researcher, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that child marriage and domestic violence harm the health of Afghans. “They lead to a higher rate of death among mothers,” she said, “and they also harm the economy of Afghanistan.”

The New York-based rights group has urged the Afghan president to take action to fully enforce the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The 2009 law imposed tough new penalties for the abuse of women, including making child marriage and forced marriage crimes under Afghan law for the first time.

Majority Experience Abuse

Barr said that in Afghanistan, “studies have shown that 53 percent of women are married before the age of 18 and 85 percent of women experience some kind of abuse in their lifetime.”

HRW has outlined a number of specific measures needed to improve enforcement of the legislation to eliminate violence against women, including making reforms within the police and the prosecutor's offices that will allow them to bring more cases under this law and to take a tougher stand when there are violations of the law.

HRW says taking those steps will demonstrate that Afghanistan remains fully committed to eliminating violence against women and ensure that it complies with its international obligations.