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UN Cites Progress In Protecting Afghan Women From Violence, But Not Enough

Women who report attacks often face threats or further violence, the report notes.
The United Nations says Afghanistan "still has a long way to go" to fully protect women and girls from violence.

The UN's mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a report on December 11 showing some progress in applying 2009 legislation that criminalizes violence against women. But it adds there are gaps in its implementation.

However, at a news conference in Kabul on December 11, Georgette Gagnon, human rights director for UNAMA, said the law was not being implemented consistently.

"Although prosecutors and courts were increasingly applying the law in a growing number of reported incidents of violence against women, the overall use of the law remained low, indicating there is still a long way to go for women and girls in Afghanistan to be protected from violence through this law," she said.

The UN mission says the number of reported attacks has increased and calls this "an encouraging development" because historically, women have been too afraid to make official complaints.

Gagnon said that the report still did not reflect the full extent of the violence against women.

"Incidents of violence against women still remain largely underreported due to cultural constraints, social norms and taboos, customary practices, and discrimination against women," she said.

"Also, prevailing insecurity and weak rule of law have hampered women's access to formal justice institutions."

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 4,010 cases of violence against women in the seven months between March and October this year -- nearly twice as many as in the previous 12 months.

The report also notes that only a small percentage of reported incidents are duly processed and result in convictions.

Violence Continues

It says beating and cutting are the most common forms of violence, but also notes an increase in so-called honor killings, the murder of women for allegedly dishonoring the family in some way, such as committing adultery.

It also says that instead of following legal procedures, prosecutors often refer reports of violence to tribal councils.

Such councils have been known to order a raped woman to marry her rapist.

The report also says police have been reluctant to pursue perpetrators of violence against women if they are linked to armed groups, whether Taliban insurgents or warlords.

Gagnon of the UNAMA said the Afghan authorities needed to take bolder action.

"We are calling on the Afghan authorities to take, of course, much greater steps to both facilitate reporting of incidents of violence against women and actually open investigations and take on prosecutions," she said.

The UN report comes after a series of highly publicized cases of violence against women.

Those range from a woman's summary execution in front of a mob after being accused of adultery to the beheading of a girl, allegedly after her father rejected a marriage proposal for her.

Advances in women's rights are seen as a major success in the Afghan conflict after the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban in the U.S.-led invasion.

There are concerns, however, that the gains made by women will be eroded after NATO and the United States withdraw most of their forces by the end of 2014.

With reporting by AP, BBC, and dpa
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