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Afghanistan “most dangerous place for women,” report says

June 20, 2011

For the past several years, GRIID has been involved directly, or reported on, local actions that sought to raise awareness of the cost of the US’ continuing occupation of Afghanistan. Those actions included hosting journalist, Anand Gopal, peace activist Kathy Kelly, a teach-in on Ending Occupations with keynote Phyllis Bennis and marches that commemorated the eighth and ninth anniversaries of the US occupation of Afghanistan.

These marches reiterated the financial costs of the occupation that are being paid for with local and state tax revenue, revenue that could be used to fund our schools, healthcare, parks, food security, housing for the homeless or unemployment for the many now out of work.

One of the rationales for the paying the high costs of occupation that is often highlighted by the Whitehouse and US media is the liberation of Afghan’s women. Sad to say, the US presence in Afghanistan has only worsened women’s plight here. Women’s groups inside Afghanistan  like RAWA and  Afghan’s Women’s Mission have made this clear since the occupation began. Their accounts were recently corroborated  in a June 15 article published in Al Jazeera English, “Afghanistan ‘most dangerous place for women.

Afghanistan has been ranked as the world’s most dangerous country for women, with Congo taking a close second position, a Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll has said. Violence, dismal healthcare and brutal poverty afflicts women in Afghanistan, while in Congo there are horrific levels of rape, the survey conducted by TrustLaw, an arm of Thomson Reuters, said on Wednesday. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively in the global survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.

“Ongoing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women,” Antonella Notari, head of women change makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world, said.

The survey asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks. The risks were health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. Some experts said the poll showed that subtle dangers such as discrimination that don’t grab headlines are sometimes just as significant risks for women as bombs, bullets, stonings and systematic rape in conflict zones.

“I think you have to look at all the dangers to women, all the risks women and girls face,” Elisabeth Roesch, who works on gender-based violence for the International Rescue Committee in Washington, said. “If a woman can’t access healthcare because her healthcare isn’t prioritised, that can be a very dangerous situation as well.”

Afghanistan emerged as the most dangerous country for women overall and worst in three of the six risk categories: health, non-sexual violence and lack of access to economic resources. Respondents cited sky-high maternal mortality rates, limited access to doctors and a near total lack of economic rights. Afghan women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth, according to UNICEF.

While Obama may be talking withdrawal, the terms are already being brought into question. Plans are already underway for a tenth anniversary march calling for bringing US troops home from Afghanistan. The Grand Rapids march is being coordinated through the United National Antiwar Committee. For information on getting involved, contact  local organizer, Fermin Valle.

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