The recent murder of top Afghan policewoman Lieutenant Negar has sparked conversation about Taliban violence against women in Afghanistan. Negar was shot dead on September 16 while waiting for a government bus to take her to work. Negar held a very important position in the Afghan police force as the lead policewoman in the Helmand province. Her attacker has not been found and no one has been taken into custody yet.
Negar’s murder is the third of such unresolved killings of policewomen in several months in Afghanistan. This past July, assailants attacked and killed Negar’s predecessor Islam Bibi on her way to work. Sergeant Shah Bibi was also shot dead while out shopping.
The deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan have resulted in greater danger for women. In fact, the number of women killed in Afghanistan has seen a 61 percent increase since 2012, according to a United Nations (UN) report on civilian casualties. The violence has come to the attention of the UN body, UN Women, whose executive direction Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka criticized the menacing behavior towards and targeted murders of female Afghan officials, and also called for the urgent need to bring the guilty to justice as to ensure the rights to safety and security of Afghan women.
“Violence against women in Afghanistan is pervasive and increasing,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “The empowerment of women and realization of their rights are fundamental to the reconstruction of Afghanistan so that women and men can take responsibility for the future development of their country.”
Due to the fact that only one percent of the Afghan police force are women, policewomen are more vulnerable to rebel attacks and they are easier to target. Not only do these low numbers affect the vulnerability that policewomen face, but also Afghan women in general as they do not report the crimes committed against them.
According to a recent Oxfam report, the numbers of Afghan policewomen needs to dramatically increase in order to tackle the problem of violence against women such as domestic abuse, forced marriages, and honor killings. According the Oxfam, the social stigma propagating discrimination towards women in the workforce needs to end if Afghanistan wants to improve its human rights standards towards women. Policewomen in Afghanistan can help to tackle cases of abuse against women in their communities if there are a greater number of them.
“Significant under-reporting—which contributes to the lack of prosecutions and a culture of impunity—occurs party because social norms prevent most Afghan women for approaching male police officers. Few Afghans ever see a policewoman, leaving most women and girls unable to report crimes and threats against them,” said the Oxfam report.
The international community has already begun working towards women’s rights in Afghanistan. UN officials are strongly urging the ratification of the Elimination of Violence against Women law since the Afghan Parliament failed to ratify it due to debate concerning the law in Parliament in May. Oxfam also advises the international community to get more involved in the issue and help with the employment of women police in the Afghan police force, as well as monitoring their treatment at work.
– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Sources: BBC, UN News Centre, UN News Centre, The Guardian, The Guardian