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Editorial: Govt.’s passivity towards sexual abuse

Afghanistan is undeniably a conservative society firmly committed to traditional, cultural, social and religious values. Afghan people regard their Islamic and national values as most sacred and stand ready and willing to do whatever is necessary to preserve them. Thus allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of women or children in various sectors of the society affect those values and have turned into a cause for concern. However, the government’s passivity and inaction further exacerbate these circumstances. The significant sexual abuse cases of last year have been the school children abuse in Logar province and female footballers in Kabul and let us not forget the big scandal at the Presidential Palace when a presidential aide alleged there had been sexual favors sought from women in exchange for government posts. These circumstances entail great worry and sadness and aren’t acceptable. The Human Rights Watch has recently accused the Afghan government of not doing enough in fighting sexual harassment, saying it had failed to probe cases in these regards. The human rights watchdog mentioned the two recent sexual abuse cases (school children abuse in Logar province and female footballers in Kabul) as uninvestigated. This is while the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) last week revealed that over 14 percent of female military officers – of all the 2,300 interviewed – had faced sexual harassment. It is reasonable to accept that properly investigating sexual violence in Afghanistan is difficult as those who speak up receive life threats but it shouldn’t be so. The status quo calls for remedial steps to thoroughly investigate the claims of sexual harassment in government institutions and NGOs. It should be ascertained to what extent the allegations are factual, and if they are found to be accurate, the culprits must be punished in the light of the country’s applicable laws. Meanwhile, Afghan people should be given assurances so that they can permit their female family members to serve in the government. The continuity and non-investigation of such allegations can create barriers for women to work. It is the responsibility of government leadership to find out the truth. In an environment beset by uncertainty and allegations, it will not be very easy for families in our society to let their female members work in the government or their children attend schools. Any indifference in this respect can deprive Afghanistan of the potential of half of its population – women – and affect people’s trust in the overall government machinery.

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