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06 March 2014

Strengthening Afghan Civil Society, Asserting Women’s Rights

Press release: Cologne, 6 March 2014. To mark International Women’s Day on March 8 2014, medica mondiale is calling for more political backing for the work of human rights defenders.

In recent months, Afghans defending women’s rights have increasingly been subjected to hostilities and intimidation attempts – from politicians, judges, religious leaders and even from neighbours or their own family. The background to this includes both the imminent NATO troop withdrawal and the presidential elections in April 2014. If there is a rearrangement of power and resources this brings with it the risk of women’s interests and rights being put on the back burner again. On the other hand, the nature of international involvement in the country will become increasingly civilian, which opens up opportunities for the future. "In order to secure the achievements that have been made so far with regard to women’s rights in Afghanistan, it is essential for the international community to make use of the chances to act which it has and take a proactive stance when it comes to asserting women’s rights," declares Monika Hauser, founder of medica mondiale, on International Women’s Day. "We are calling on the German government to prioritise the work of human rights defenders. The troop withdrawal leads to a particular need to increase public discussion of the difficult situation faced by women."

Violence against women increases by 25%
In 2013, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) documented a year-on-year increase of almost 25% in violence against women and girls. "Many women in Afghanistan still suffer daily sexualised violence, exploitation, lack of rights and humiliation – at the hands of their husband or family, or from authorities," states Ms Hauser. There are now hard-won laws on the protection and equality of women, but within the patriarchal culture and justice system these are still very rarely applied in everyday life. Ms Hauser continues: "This makes it even more important for the German government and Germany’s representatives in Afghanistan to stand by these courageous women and support them in their difficult and dangerous work."

Since 1993, medica mondiale has been committed to supporting women and girls in war zones and crisis areas. The organization sees itself as being an advocate for the rights and interests of women who have survived sexualised wartime violence. For more than ten years, medica mondiale has been committed to working for women and girls in Afghanistan. With psychosocial, medical and legal counselling programs as well as human rights work, the now independent organisation Medica Afghanistan has provided support to more than 7,000 women and girls affected by violence.