Severe Restrictions Proposed for Afghan Women's Shelters
The Ministry of Justice of the Afghan government is considering adopting a new regulation that would require women fleeing domestic violence situations to appear before an eight-person government panel before obtaining shelter. Under the new regulation, the shelters, which are currently funded by international organizations, Western governments, and individual donors, would be placed under the control of the government.
A government committee would determine whether women can be admitted to a shelter or if they should be jailed or returned to their families. If admitted to the shelter, women would then be required to submit to physical examinations, which could include a virginity test. Moreover, women could be forced to leave the shelter if their families requested that they return.
Women's rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Women for Afghan Women and the Afghan Human Rights Commission, have expressed concern that the new laws would deter vulnerable women and girls from seeking necessary protections and shelter. Manizha Naderi, the director of Women for Afghan Women, told the New York Times, "I'm not sure why they are doing it - maybe because the government is becoming more conservative and to appease the Taliban they are doing this. Domestic violence is cultural and it takes time to change and it will change, but women need a safe place when they are a victim of violence."
Ten years ago there were no shelters for abused women in Afghanistan. Currently, there are approximately 14 shelters.
Media Resources: Reuters 2/10/11; New York Times 2/10/11; Irish Times 2/9/11; UPI 2/10/11