Violence Against Women in Afghanistan: Documenting Prevalence, Organizing for Change
Diya Nijhowne, M.S.W., J.D., Global Rights Program Officer for Afghanistan and Nepal and Lauryn Oates, M.A., an independent consultant, wrote the report, Living With Violence: A National Report on Domestic Abuse in Afghanistan, excerpted here and published by Global Rights: Partners for Justice (www.globalrights.org), a human rights capacity building and advocacy organization that partners with local activists to challenge injustice. The research was funded by the British government, but Global Rights says the methodology and conclusions are entirely their own. Peacework speaks out against the violence against women endemic to every country in the world, including the US.
In Afghanistan, an epidemic of daunting proportions is taking place. Violence against women in the home is so prevalent and so pervasive that almost every Afghan woman will experience it in her lifetime.
The data in this report are the result of surveys on domestic violence conducted with women in 4,700 households in 16 provinces located across Afghanistan in 2006. The research was conducted as a collaborative effort between Global Rights and Afghan civil society. To collect the data, Global Rights partnered with the Social Research Institution (SRI), an Afghan organization specializing in social science research, as well as four local women's groups: Cooperation Center for Afghanistan (CCA); the Training and Human Rights Association for Women (THRA); the Afghan Women's Peacemaking Center (AWPC); and Shahrestan Reconstruction and Cultural Services Organization.
Violence Against Women is Pervasive
The findings of this research are alarming: an overwhelming majority of women, 87%, had experienced at least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, and most (62%), had experienced multiple forms of violence.
Overall, 17% of women reported sexual violence, with 11% experiencing rape. Furthermore, 52% of women reported physical violence, 39% saying they had been hit by their husbands in the last year, and 5% of women had received death threats from their husbands.
Women who experienced psychological abuse totaled 74%, while 59% of women were in forced marriages, as distinct from arranged marriages. Husbands are not the sole abusers in families: mothers-in-law were identified as the main abusers by almost a quarter of the women surveyed.
Organizing to End Violence Against Women
In Afghanistan, Global Rights' work on domestic violence has included:
- Launching one of the first campaigns against domestic violence in Afghanistan, which featured trainings focused on addressing domestic violence as a human rights violation, an analysis of the causes and consequences of domestic violence in Afghan society, and a multi-media campaign to raise public awareness against domestic violence;
- Creating and distributing 500 copies of a Dari language brochure entitled Stop Domestic Violence Against Women, which discussed the reasons for and impact of domestic violence and encouraged both Afghan men and women to work to prevent it;
- Organizing a roundtable discussion on national TV to raise awareness of domestic violence and to promote a rights-based legal framework to combat it;
- Creating posters depicting domestic violence and its impact on daily life and distributing these posters to schools, the Association of Lawyers and Judges, and the women's prison;
- Conducting outreach with mullahs to discuss domestic violence as a violation of Islamic principles and teachings; five mullahs from different mosques spoke on the subject during their Friday afternoon prayers;
- Hosting a National Conference on Women's Rights, Law, and Justice to explore interpretations of Islamic law on issues such as domestic violence.
Global Rights now plans to enter into a new
phase of work on domestic violence: building the capacity of Afghan
non-governmental organizations to work in coalition with each
other and with women's rights advocates to develop and
implement an advocacy campaign to end domestic violence based
on the findings presented in this report.