Afghan women faced a number of obstacles to voting yesterday in Afghanistan's presidential election. Despite large turnout at many polling places, men greatly outnumbered women voters, according to CNN. The election is still not decided as ballots are still being counted.
Prior to the election, there was concern that there was a severe shortage of female workers to staff women-only polling places, which would limit the ability of millions of women cast their ballots. According to the Independent UK, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said last weekend it needed 13,000 additional women to staff the polls, though some estimated the number needed was actually as high as 42,000.
Habiba Surobi, the governor of Bamiyan has said that women in many remote Afghan villages remain unaware of their rights, including their right to vote, reported CNN.
There is also concern about voter fraud. In Afghanistan, women's voter registration cards are frequently fraudulent because, unlike men's, they do not include a photograph for identification. 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 Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told Reuters prior to the election that there were suspiciously high levels of female registration, especially in conservative areas of southern Afghanistan where women are discouraged from appearing in public. An unnamed source also told Reuters that in several provinces, the number of registered female voters exceeds the number of women in the area.
According to ADN Kronos International, two of the 31 presidential candidates are women and about 300 of 3,000 candidates for provincial councils are women.
Media Resources: Independent UK 8/17/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 8/18/09; Reuters 8/14/09; ADN Kronos International 8/20/09; CNN 8/20/09