HRC41: Statement on Afghanistan

4 July 2019

We had planned to make the following statement during the adoption of the UPR outcome of Afghanistan. However, only 10 NGOs get to speak during UPR adoptions and WILPF was number 12 on the list of speakers. 

 

No Peace Without Women’s Rights

 UN Human Rights Council 41st session (24 June – 12 July 2019)

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review – Outcome of Afghanistan

During its UPR, Afghanistan received many recommendations specifically on women’s and girls’ rights, including on violence against women and girls, access to education and to justice, and women human rights defenders. However, it is unrealistic to imagine that any of these recommendations will be implemented in a scenario that follows a peace deal reached without meaningful inclusion of women. In fact, the struggles made by Afghan women and girls for their rights over the past 18 years may be easily lost. UPR recommendations relating to women’s participation in the peace process are going unheeded. We reiterate that the peace process must include at least 30% of women, including from independent women civil society groups.

Afghan women and girls continue to be affected by the conflict in many ways, including due to extreme poverty, airstrikes, and sexual violence with spikes in child and forced marriage. The extreme levels of harm inflicted on civilians from the armed conflict in 2017 and 2018 have indeed exposed women to becoming the sole-income providers of their households after the death of their husbands, which in turn exposes girls to the risk of marriage to repay debt or to relieve economic hardship.[1]Women human rights defenders are also particularly at risk. Just last May, Mena Mangal a prominent journalist and political adviser, was gunned down in Kabul.

The Taliban have paid lip service to women’s rights at international negotiations, saying that they intend to protect women’s rights that are not against Afghan values.  The reality is a lot different on the ground. In parts of the country under Taliban’s control, harsh restrictions are imposed, including a ban on secondary education for girls. The Taliban have denounced women rights’ activists, claiming that their activities contradict Islamic values. They have also called for the revision of the 2004 Constitution, which enshrines principles of equality, liberty, and human dignity and which is a cornerstone for the protection of women’s rights. For these reasons alone, women’s rights should be at the centre of any peace agreement and women should be at the negotiating table. The government must resist any attempts to step backwards on women’s rights and ensure that they are fully part of peace negotiations.

Last month, the USA published its strategy on Women, Peace and Security, which states as a Line of effort 1 to: “Support the preparation and meaningful participation of women around the world in informal and formal decision-making processes related to conflict and crisis.”[2]This is at odds with the apparent lack of commitment of the US administration to press the Taliban on this issue. The US administration’s exit strategy from Afghanistan should not come at the cost of Afghan women’s rights. Such an approach to peace would be extremely short sighted as greater and meaningful participation by women leads to more comprehensive and long-lasting peace agreements. We urge the US administration to redress the current situation.

Finally, we call on the Afghan government to effectively implement UPR recommendations and to cooperate in a transparent manner with civil society in such implementation. The government must also step up its efforts to implement with sufficient funding Afghanistan’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in line with its pledge as a member of this Council.[3]

 

Download the PDF version of the Statement on Afghanistan.

 

[1]A/HRC/29/27/Add.3, para. 56; UNAMA documented 8050 civilian casualties from 1 January to 30 September 2018, page 1, https://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unama_protection_of_civilians_in_armed_conflict_3rd_qua rter_report_2018_10_oct.pdf

[2]https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/WPS-Strategy-FINAL-PDF-6.11.19.pdf