Tuesday, January 31, 2023

This Year 16 Days Global Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Carries a Unique Bitterness

By Nazila Jamshidi

Sixteen Days (November 25 to December 10) of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual and global civil society campaign that calls for eliminating gender-based violence against women and girls. This year’s campaign carries a notable bitterness. More than 20 million women in Afghanistan suffer from gender-based violence (GBV) and discrimination imposed by the most unjust regime. Like Amnesty International reported the last June, women from Afghanistan defined their lives as a death in solo motion under the Taliban rule. Since capturing Afghanistan, the Taliban confined systematic violence against women’s human rights and detention of human rights defenders. They imposed several other forms of gender-based violence against women that are underpinned by their gender apartheid system. They codified their misogynistic decrees through cultural norms and entrenched them through the laws and policies that promote a culture of gender-based violence against women and girls. Once again, after two decades of progress toward gender justice and equality, gender-based violence is so common as to be pervasive in Afghan women’s lives.

In conjunction with the 16-day global campaign, many Afghan women and men united on November 27, 2022, in London and Washington, D.C., to condemn the Taliban’s gender-based violence and barbaric restrictions imposed on women and girls. As the world ran the 16-day global campaign to eliminate gender-based violence worldwide, Afghan women stood in solidarity with women and girls inside Afghanistan, voicing their pain and suffering to the world and demanding the leaders fulfill their moral obligation to women and girls. 

Aware of the devastating physical, mental, and social outcomes of gender-based violence on women, the next generations, and the whole communities, Afghans took to the streets and demanded their host country’s policymakers pay attention to the tragedy of Afghan women. Gender-based violence can be prevented, and 20 years of significant progress toward women’s empowerment, at least in Afghanistan, is a shred of vivid evidence. But tolerance of misogyny and observing violence against women as something rooted in culture and social norms, and thus, as a domestic issue of Afghans, will only result in boosting a culture of gender-based violence. Khalil Parsa, a human rights advocate and founder of Supporting Organization for Afghanistan Civil Society, says, “Gender-based violence against women doesn’t only affect women’s lives, survival, and future, but it destroys society as a whole. Afghanistan will never experience peace with persistent systematic violence against women in every walk of life.”

Afghan women outside the country seek to attract global support toward advancing an agenda to address systematic gender-based violence against women by the Taliban and to show the urgency to act. Holding a placard that says, “free Zarifa Yaquobi,” another protester, Yalda Royan, a human rights activist in Washington, D.C., stressed that protecting human rights defenders, the only people who stand against gender-based violence, is a significant step toward eliminating gender-based violence. “Zarifa Yaquobi is detained by the Taliban only because she is a human rights defender and asked for nothing but women’s basic human rights peacefully. Security and the work of human rights defenders must be a priority focus in human rights global advocacy strategy.” Said Yalda. 

Under the Taliban regime, month after month, violence against women is rising, and imposing violent decrees on women continues. Afghans hear nothing from world leaders and international human rights organizations but statements of condemnation and concern in response to each misogynistic regulation, tragic incident, and violent detention of women. Any action that challenges the Taliban’s policy and decree on women is yet to be taken. Wearing an orange scarf — a color that symbolizes a brighter future, free of violence —Mary Akrami, Director of the Afghan Women Skills Development Center, says, “our losses are enormous. But we are determined to stand for our rights and future, even if the entire world remains silent. Women have always been the driving force for change, and this time we will change the course of history. We are not, and have never been, the passive character of our history.”

The immense violence against women in Afghanistan is preventable, but concerted efforts are needed by world women leaders, feminist champions, international human rights organization, and Afghan human rights advocate worldwide. As Spouzhmai Akbarzai, another women’s rights activist in Washington, D.C., indicates, “the ongoing severe forms of violence against women in Afghanistan is a reflection of the international community’s disinterest in addressing the plight of Afghan Women. We call on women leaders worldwide to unite and transform their words into action.”

When women are excluded and marginalized from decision-making positions, schools’ doors remain closed to girls, and countries’ representatives meet the Taliban’s leaders without women in the room, gender-based violence is tolerated, normative, and thus encouraged. Centralizing women and their rights in every dialogue with the Taliban and advancing a global agenda to restore and protect women’s rights is an effective way to eradicate gender-based violence against women in Afghanistan. 

Note:The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the article.

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