A new finding by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) shows that Afghan women who serve in ranks of security forces are subject to discrimination, mistreatment and sexual harassment. 2,272 women, who serve in different ranks of Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army Force, and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), have been interviewed and the focus of the report is on experiences Afghan women have through while on service.

Under pressure by its foreign donors, in 2010, the Afghan government set a goal to increase the number of female participation in security organs by 10 percent in 2020. “In 2015, that goal was scrapped for a more attainable one: 5,000 women in the army and 10,000 women in the police force by 2025,” said a report issued on the New York Times Magazine in October, 2018.

The AIHRC has found that the target to increase the number of female police to 10,000 has not been accomplished. Officials at the Ministry of Interior describe conservatism, dissatisfaction by the families and fear of insecurity as major challenges ahead of achieving the target.  

“All female members of Afghan National Army Forces counts for 1.17 percent of the total Afghan army forces,” the AIHRC biannual report said about the presence of women in the ranks of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

Sexual harassment

According to the report, 6.6 percent of respondents said they have experienced sexual harassment while on service. Whereas 84.4 percent of theme have expressed satisfaction about their security while on duty.   

But the report says that the actual number of harassment victims in ANDSF ranks is far higher than the number revealed as most of them do not leak harassment case, fearing that they might lose their jobs.  

Of those who have been harassed, 56 percent have filed complaint to a superior official but 80 percent of them have remained silent. “124 respondents have personally reacted against it and 141 have quit their jobs due to harassment by their male colleagues,” the report reads.

The report suggests that security officials have not pursued harassment cases seriously, noting that just more than five percent of the respondents said the perpetrators were given warnings, over two percent said the perpetrators have been transferred from their posts, and seven percent of the interviewees said the perpetrators were fired.

According to Afghan laws, harassment of women is a crime, and the perpetrators shall be punished accordingly.

Biased behavior

Findings by AIHRC show that the women who are working at the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, and NDS are facing different forms of discrimination. The opinion poll has found that 4.48 percent of 2,272 respondents have expressed that they are not enjoying equal opportunities (promotion, having leaves, training programs,) and they do not have the same facilities—administrative equipment—as their male counterparts are enjoying. “The authorities and senior officials at the defense and security institutions have not paid a serious attentions to remove inequality and discrimination against women,” the report says while describing the behavior as biased and double standard.

Although Afghanistan signed the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 14 August 1980, but it was not ratified until 2003 due to conflicts raged in the country. The Afghan government ratified CEDAW on March 05, 2003 without any reservation. The CEDAW obliges the government to provide equal opportunities and grounds for women and put effective measure into practice for removing any kinds of discrimination against women.

Women participation in decision making

The report says women have a marginal presence in decision making positions in security institutions. Over seven percent of female officers in security and defense organs say they have not been consulted. “Although the number of women working in these institutions has increased comparing to previous years, the number are not sufficient,” the AIHRC said, recommending for bolstering the number of women in ANDSF and building their capacity.

According to the AIHRC report, more than 3,000 women are serving in Afghan police rank in 34 provinces, which counts for three percent of the total Afghan police forces. They are mostly working in administrative areas, handling cases of domestic disputes, criminal cases, house-search, and arrest operations.

The presence of women in Afghan National Army is much lower and a matter of concern as the country’s defense ministry confirms that female soldiers are serving just in a limited numbers of provinces, including Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, Paktia, Nangarhar, and Bamyan. They are working in administrative, finance, planning, radio, and procurement areas.

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