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Old slogans

The International Women’s Day was observed across the globe on Sunday as routine but for Afghan girls and women the day is of utmost importance because they are languishing in the social-prison with no ray of hope. Women in this country of misfortunes are fighting tooth and nail for their rights, but there is no visible change despite repeated promises of the leaders at the helm. Symbolic representation of women in the government offices and the decision-making bodies negate the leaders’ grandiose promises about women empowerment.

Every year this day is observed through seminars and conferences where authorities vow of new plans to improve women’s lifestyle, however, at the end it becomes a forgotten story. Most of such activities take place in Kabul City, followed by Herat, Balkh and Nangarhar provinces. Different nongovernmental organizations cash the day to get more funds. Remarkably, one thing remains the same on the women’s day—old slogans in new conferences. That’s why violence against women is still rampant. On Saturday a policeman beheaded his wife in Herat, a province which is considered more modernized. At least 40 women were killed in the province this year.

The alarming number of violence against women cases sketch a gloomy picture. In this picture one can see a 13-year old girl raped by cleric a week ago in Takhar, Afghan artist Kubra Khademi wearing armor to condemn street harassment, the provincial council member for Nangarhar, Angiza Shinwari, lying on hospital bed with fading heartbeats, a female student crying for help when assaulted by an official of the higher education ministry at Kabul University. The picture depicts numerous of such cases where women and girls with tears rolling in eyes look helpless and waiting for sudden death to truncate life, with many possibilities but limited opportunities.

The first step to empower women should be about confessions. The government in general and the society in particular should acknowledge the shortfalls and lack of sincerity when talking about women empowerment. Without it we cannot admit that Afghanistan is teetering on the edge of widespread violence which continues to traumatize women.

Furthermore, shortage of female instructors in technical colleges and universities as well as street harassment and sexual prejudice in offices had made it difficult for women to carry the torch of success forward and become self-sufficient. Women are manhandled on daily basis but the stories go unreported. High maternal mortality rate, lack of female doctors and nurses also add to the miseries.

No doubt these issues are humiliating women but failed to prod the lawmakers to pay heed, because the legislative process is drawn-out and biggest hurdle for women to safeguard their rights. Despite the fact that violence against women is explicitly in contravention of Islam, the Wolesi Jirga failed to approve the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women. The delay is calamitous because several women and girls have lost their lives in a short span of time. The time is ripe to placate the situation and approve the law; otherwise mere chanting slogans would not turn the day in favor of women.

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