(Washington) - Amnesty International urged President Obama today to put women's rights in Afghanistan at the top of his security talks today with President Karzai. The human rights organization said protecting the security needs and other basic rights of women and girls is key to unlocking Afghanistan's future stability and prosperity.
Amnesty International also repeated its call for the U.S. government to adopt an action plan for Afghan women to make sure their rights are not traded away as Afghanistan undergoes transition of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces. Supporting the security needs of Afghan women and girls is for the first time included in the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act that President Obama signed into law last week.
"President Obama should make it clear in his discussion with President Karzai that human rights, including women's rights, must be non-negotiable," said Cristina Finch, director of Amnesty International USA's Women's Rights Program. "It is imperative that both presidents commit to a robust plan to protect those rights and thereby save women's lives, going forward."
"Women have made significant strides toward equal participation in every aspect of life in Afghanistan - whether education, employment, or politics. But their hard-fought gains are under threat and must be safeguarded to prevent the clock being turned back -- women have come too far, their gains cannot be lost."
The 2013 NDAA includes the Afghan Women and Girl's Security Promotion Act, added as an amendment by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) based on recommendations from Amnesty International USA and Afghan women's organizations.
Key provisions require the Defense Department to report on their efforts to promote and support the security of Afghan women and girls during and after the security transition process through various steps, including direct monitoring of women's security, training to improve gender sensitivity among Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel and expanded recruitment and retention of women in the ANSF.
"Having signed this vital legislation, President Obama must take the next step and commit the U.S. to adopting a plan of action to secure Afghan women's rights and lay a foundation for their full participation in the long term," said Finch. "Women are key to the successful future of Afghanistan and respect for their human rights are critical to sustainable peace and prosperity.
President Obama should also urge President Karzai to ensure that the Afghan government fully and promptly implements the Elimination of Violence against Women law. Despite its passage in 2009, Afghan law enforcement and judicial officials continue to fail to adequately investigate violence against women and girls and bring perpetrators to justice. Threats and attacks on women in public life and women human rights defenders, often resulting in death, continue to be a cause for concern.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.