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SOS Children's Villages, January 29, 2009

Children in Afghanistan brave sexual harassment as they walk to school

In the less conservative Kabul, girls are facing abuse, sexual harassment and kidnappings.

By Hayley Jarvis

Every day, as they go to school, girls in Afghanistan run a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment by youths carrying knives. From acid attacks, murder, torching of schools and sexual assault, violence against girl students is crushing the dreams of thousands of Afghan girls and women hungry to learn. Many want an education so they can have a hand in rebuilding their country.

In the past eight months, 138 students and teachers have died and 172 have been wounded in criminal and terror attacks, according to the Ministry of Education. About 651 schools have closed and another 122 school buildings have been blown up or burned down. About 31% of Afghan women suffer physical violence and another 30% suffer from psychological violence according to figures from the United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan (UNFPA).
SOS Children's Villages, Jan. 29, 2009

In villages, the Taliban have burnt down schools, killed female students and teachers and attacked schoolgirls by throwing acid in their faces. In the less conservative Kabul, girls are facing abuse, sexual harassment and kidnappings. In many cases, the intimidation is having the desired effect.

Maryam Mansoor quit school because her worried father wanted her to. "A lot of my classmates and other female students don't come to school anymore because they fear the boys' harassment and kidnappings," the 18 year-old told Reuters news agency. "I like to go to school and later I want to go to university to be a doctor or someone important in the future, but I don't want to make my family upset because of my education. Whatever my father has decided is right," said Maryam.

When it took control of the country in 1996, The Taliban, ousted from Kabul in 2001, introduced Islamic law including public executions and amputations. Added to this, was a flurry of sexist rules forbidding girls from going to school and women from working. The Taliban oppose education for girls, which they say is un-Islamic. Women and girls may not leave their homes without a male relative.

The Afghan government has since sought to improve access to education for both boys and girls. Some 6.2 million young Afghans, including two million girls now go to school, compared with less than one million, only male students. But Afghanistan is still a deeply traditional and conservative society. Even without the Taliban, some in Kabul are against girls going to school. Many feel that once girls reach puberty, leaving the home, even for school, might cast doubt on their honour. Many of the jeering young men hanging around outside schools and following the girls home clearly believe that too.

In spite of the police presence near every school boys manage to tease girls and even kidnap them and sexually abuse them. That is on top of the already huge security problems facing education in Afghanistan. In the past eight months, 138 students and teachers have died and 172 have been wounded in criminal and terror attacks, according to the Ministry of Education. About 651 schools have closed and another 122 school buildings have been blown up or burned down.

About 31% of Afghan women suffer physical violence and another 30% suffer from psychological violence according to figures from the United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan (UNFPA).

SOS Children's Villages has been running an emergency relief programme for Afghan refugees in Pakistan since October 2001, providing health care, education and recreation for children. The facilities include two schools for girls who had never before received any form of education.

Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism, Children, HR Violations, Education - Views: 13621