U.N. blames rise in violence against Afghan women on culture

Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:36pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Violence linked to culture was the main reason for a 20 percent rise in deaths and injuries of females in Afghanistan last year, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis said on Monday.

Despite an overall fall in annual civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first time in several years, the United Nations said last month that more than 300 women and girls were killed and more than 560 injured during 2012.

"The majority is linked to domestic violence, tradition, culture of the country," Kubis told reporters at the United Nations in New York ahead of a debate on Afghanistan by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

"Of course there are very clearly attacks on women's activists by the insurgency," he said. "Then there are unfortunate situations when indeed women are killed while doing their daily chores (by unexploded bombs)."

Western human rights advocates say cultural tradition is often used to justify abuse of women such as female genital mutilation and honor killings.

Afghanistan is a conservative Muslim country, where under Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001 women were forced to cover up and were banned from voting, most work and leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband or male relative.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

As foreign forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014 after a more than decade-long war, the United Nations and rights groups are concerned human rights in Afghanistan, particularly those of women, will further deteriorate.   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