The participation of many Afghan women in Thursday's elections is threatened by strict polling regulations and fraud. A severe shortage of female workers to staff women-only polling places will limit the ability of millions of women cast their ballots, reports the Independent UK. The country's Independent Election Commission says it needs 13,000 additional women to staff the polls, though the number may actually be as high as 42,000.
Women's rights activist Wazhma Frogh told the Independent UK that female staff are necessary in the strictly sex-segregated polls, "Otherwise women won't dare go out. Their families won't let them."
Women's voter registration cards are frequently used as tools for fraud because unlike men's they do not include a photograph for identification. Cultural norms often prohibit women from appearing in photographs with their faces uncovered. As a result, men can easily engage in proxy voting by collecting the registration cards of women in their families.
Dr. Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says there are suspiciously high levels of female registration in especially conservative areas of southern Afghanistan where women are discouraged from appearing in public, reports Reuters. An unnamed source told Reuters that in several provinces, the number of registered female voters exceeds the number of women in the area. "People are aware that it's much easier to stuff a woman's ballot box than a man's," the source said.
Media Resources: The Independent UK 8/17/09; Reuters 8/14/09