U.N.'s Ban disturbed by Afghan impunity on violence against women

Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:16pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that there was a deeply disturbing "pervasive climate of impunity" in Afghanistan for the abusers of women and girls and he called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government to take action.

Despite a fall in civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first time in several years, the United Nations said last month more than 300 women and girls were killed and more than 560 injured in 2012, a 20 percent increase from 2011.

Activists and some lawmakers have blamed the rise in violence against women on what they say is the Karzai administration's waning interest in women's rights, a claim Karzai denies.

"I remain deeply disturbed that despite some improvements in prosecuting cases of violence, there is still a pervasive climate of impunity in Afghanistan for abuses of women and girls," Ban told a U.N. Security Council debate on Afghanistan.

"They have an inviolable right to live free of fear or attacks. And women and girls are key to a better future for Afghanistan. Protecting them is central to peace, prosperity and stability for all people in the country," he said.

Ban called for the Afghan government to strictly implement a 2009 law on the elimination of violence against women, which made child marriage, forced marriage, rape and other violent acts criminal offenses.

The U.N. political mission in Afghanistan, led by special envoy Jan Kubis, said in December that Afghanistan still had a long way to go in implementing the law. Kubis said on Monday that violence linked to culture was the main reason for the rise in deaths and injuries of women girl last year.

Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that Kabul was committed to upholding international commitments on human rights, including women's rights.   Continued...

An Afghan girl stands among widows clad in burqas during a cash for work project by humanitarian organisation CARE International in Kabul January 6, 2010. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood