South Asia

Afghan law has done little for women - UN report

Afghan women travel on horse-drawn cart in Kandahar city, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010.
Image caption Things have improved little for many women, the report says

Millions of Afghan women continue to suffer from violence and harmful practices despite a new law aimed at curbing such abuse, the UN says.

In a new report, the UN spoke to women and men across the country, including officials and religious leaders.

The report paints a bleak picture of life for Afghan women in urban and rural areas among all ethnic groups.

Women still face "honour killings" and forced marriages nine years after the Taliban were ousted, it said.

The report blames insecurity and poverty caused by three decades of war, but it also says the government is not doing enough to protect women's rights.

A law was introduced last year to eliminate violence against women, but rather than implementing it, the police and courts were reinforcing harmful traditional practices, the report said.

Georgette Gagnon, the director of human rights at the UN's Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said the law needs speedy and adequate enforcement.

"At the highest level we have recommended that the ministry of interior, the police, the judges, the courts, give out specific instructions, guidelines and supervise the activities of police in this area," she said.

The UN's report is embarrassing for the Afghan government and its Western backers, who often paint a rosy picture of how life for Afghan women has improved since the fall of the Taliban.

The government is often accused of tolerating a culture of impunity.

But it also faces the serious challenge of how to protect women's rights in lawless areas which are outside its control as the Taliban-led insurgency spreads.

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