Annan: Afghan Women May Still Suffer

AP, Feb.20, 2002

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The civil war in Afghanistan fostered "a culture of violence" against women which is likely to continue during peacetime, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report Wednesday.

"The current situation of change of power and instability may lead to increased violence against women in an atmosphere of impunity," Annan warned in the report to the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

He called for special measures "to protect women and girls from forced and under-age marriages and all other forms of violence."

In the report, the secretary-general said the U.S.-led military intervention and the routing of the Taliban after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States has enabled Afghan women to start reclaiming their rights.

But he noted that they were marginalized long before the Taliban came to power. Annan said they also assumed greater economic and social responsibilities during the years of conflict.

While the burqa, the all-enveloping garment worn by most Afghan women, was seen by outsiders as perhaps the most visible form of discrimination, Annan said "Afghan women themselves considered other forms of discrimination, such as the ban on employment and education, to be of greater significance."

He called for greater participation by women in all aspects of life in Afghanistan, and for more effort to ensure they rights to employment, education and freedom of expression.

Last month, Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai demonstrated his support for women's rights by signing a declaration which affirmed the right to equality between men and women.

To accelerate the equality of women and men in decision-making, Annan called for "temporary special measures, including targets and quotas, targeted at Afghan women."

He also called for urgent measures to repeal all orders that discriminate against women, and to ensure "a safe environment free from violence to facilitate women's participation and the return of refugees."

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