Rape in Afghanistan a profound problem, U.N. says

Mon Nov 30, 2009 7:13am EST
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By Yara Bayoumy

KABUL (Reuters) - Rape in Afghanistan is under-reported, concealed and a human rights problem of "profound proportions", the United Nations said on Monday.

Norah Niland, the United Nations' human rights representative in Afghanistan, said field research conducted late last year and early this year found rape affected all parts of Afghanistan, across all communities and social groups.

"Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes, in their villages and in detention facilities," Niland said at a news conference in Kabul, as part of a 16-day activism campaign against gender violence.

"It is a human rights problem of profound proportions."

Niland said feelings such as shame exacerbate the problem and are often attached to victims rather than perpetrator.

Rape occurs within the family and beyond and victims are often prosecuted for committing adultery, she said.

During Afghanistan's civil war of the early 1990s, rape and sexual violence toward women was widespread and Islamist Taliban militants gained strength at first because of their tough stance against the crime.

Women's rights in Afghanistan have improved markedly since the 2001 overthrow of the strict Sunni Islamist Taliban government which prohibited women from working, attending school or leaving their homes without a male relative.   Continued...