Almost two-thirds of women in Afghanistan have no confidence in the country’s judiciary and over half have no confidence in police, according to new poll data released by ActionAid today.
The findings come ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan in London next week on December 4, to be attended by the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and co-hosted by the UK government.
Rachel Noble, editor of a new ActionAid report on women in Afghanistan, Hanging in the Balance, said: “Despite significant gains for women’s rights in Afghanistan, including new laws addressing violence against women, it is clear that justice is still failing them.
“Whether at home, at work or at school, women and girls continue to face threats and violence, but have little faith that authorities will bring those responsible to account. Much more needs to be done by the international community and the Afghan government to uphold and progress women’s rights.”
Data from the Gallup World Poll, made available to ActionAid, also shows that:
- Just 3 in 10 Afghan women have confidence in the judicial system, while only 4 in 10 have confidence in local police with levels of trust dropping, down 13 per cent since 2008
- Almost two-thirds feel that security has not improved since 2001
- Less than half — 43 per cent — feel that NATO security has been effective in their local area
- Only 36 per cent feel able to ask relatives and friends for help – less than in any other of the 130 countries surveyed by Gallup
- Only 45 per cent feel satisfied with their freedom to choose what to do with their lives — the 9th lowest score for women worldwide and down from 66 per cent in 2008
- 85 per cent of Afghan women are out of the workforce or unemployed. Just 10 per cent feel the economy is improving, down from 36 per cent in 2011
- Across men and women only one percent of people say they are “thriving” in their lives – the lowest in the world.
The London Conference comes at a critical time, as a new president takes power in Afghanistan, and British and international troops leave the country. The event will re-establish priorities for the country’s future and it is essential that Afghan women are fully involved.
In some respects the lives of Afghan women and girls have improved hugely since 2001. Over two million girls are now in school compared to about 5,000 in 2001 and the maternal mortality rate has more than halved.
Yet as the poll findings show, there are still massive challenges for women in Afghanistan. One of the biggest is the issue of violence against women and girls which is persistently widespread – 87 per cent of women face at least one form of domestic violence and 62 per cent experience several forms, according to the organisation Global Rights.
There have been numerous attacks on women in public life, including the attempted murder this month of female Afghan MP Shukria Barakzai. Attacks on schools, particularly girls’ schools, have increased, according to the UN.
ActionAid’s report also found that women in Afghanistan are more likely to be prosecuted for attempting to flee violence than the men who attack them. Women and girls seeking to escape domestic violence or forced marriage, or who report rape to authorities, frequently find themselves accused and convicted of ‘moral crimes’, which include charges such as ‘running away’ or sex outside marriage. New figures show that some 600 women were in prison for ‘moral crimes’ in May 2013, while there were just 460 convictions for violence against women in 2012-2013.
Rachel Noble said: “Women in Afghanistan are putting their lives on the line every day to help build peace and a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
“The UK rightly intends to prioritise women’s rights at the London Conference but we must make sure that Afghan women take part in all discussions at the event. And after the conference is over and British troops leave, the UK must maintain its financial and political commitments to the women of Afghanistan.”
ActionAid is calling for at least £4 million of the £178 million of aid that the UK gives to Afghanistan each year to be spent on tackling violence against women and girls.
ActionAid runs a paralegal programme to train women in rural areas in the law so they can help women who are suffering or trying to escape violence.
One of the paralegals, who cannot be named for fear of reprisal attacks, is coming to London for the conference. She said: “I help women living in villages who do not even know that it is against the law for their husbands to beat them. I want their voices and concerns to be heard by the world and my government because for too long ordinary Afghan women have been excluded from discussions around our country’s future.”
To arrange interviews, or for case studies of Afghan women who have experienced violence, contact: Anjali Kwatra, ActionAid’s Head of News, on 0203 122 0633 or 07941 371357.
Notes to editors
Download the full report Hanging in the balance: why the international community must redouble its commitment to Afghan women’s rights here: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/Afghanwomen2014
Each year Gallup surveys people in over 130 countries worldwide. These surveys investigate a wide range of social and personal experience and perceptions. The Gallup Poll has been carried out in Afghanistan since 2008, each year surveying at least 1,000 people aged 15 and above across the country. The sample selected is representative of the larger community in terms of gender, age, income level and urban/rural residence. All Gallup data cited above is based on the 2013 survey unless stated otherwise.