The government of Afghanistan has recently introduced a bill that wrests control of women's shelters in Afghanistan from the local Afghan women's NGOs that have founded and run them, and transfers that control to the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA). This bill could become the law of the land ANY DAY NOW.
If this bill becomes law:
Women and girls seeking shelter will be required to plead their case before an eight-member Government panel, including conservative members of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice. This panel will determine whether a woman needs to be in a shelter or should be sent to jail or returned to her home (and her abuser).
Women will have to undergo "forensic" exams (virginity tests) to determine whether they have had sex and therefore committed adultery. The tests are medically invalid.
Once admitted to a shelter, women will be forbidden to leave. Their shelter will become their prison.
There is no discussion in the bill of women's human rights, of the horrific abuse that most women in shelters have suffered and fled. The bill discusses shelter food but not how women's rights will be protected and justice achieved.
And perhaps worst of all, if any family member comes to claim her, even her abuser, she will be handed over to that person, in most cases to be subjected to the harshest retribution for shaming the family.
You should also know that:
The bill is the culmination of a long, intense campaign by enemies of women's rights in the Afghan government to close women's shelters on the basis of false, unsupported claims: shelters are unIslamic, corrupt, and agents of immoral activity.
All women's shelters in Afghanistan are run by local Afghan women's NGOs. They are not foreign imports. Their mission, to seek justice and human rights for women, is compatible with the highest values of Islam.
With this bill the government pits itself against its own people, the Afghan women and men who have risked their lives securing women's rights in their shelters.
Shelter lawyers gain access to justice for women who would otherwise be subjected to tribal law. These shelters have been a powerful incentive toward the establishment of civil law in Afghanistan.
The new regulations transform shelters from agents of protection to agents that punish women daring to seek relief from abuse. This transformation will undermine all progress made on behalf of women's rights and mark the return of Afghanistan to the desolation of the Taliban years.
An unmistakable assault on women's human rights, this bill and the politics that have inspired it convey to the world a false and damaging view of Islam and the values of the Afghan people.
If this bill passes, it will be the first of many assaults on women's rights in Afghanistan, and the progress we have made over the past decade will be reversed. We simply cannot allow this to happen. Join Women for Afghan Women (WAW) in the fight to protect women's shelters and women's human rights.
Sign the petition to President Karzai.
Spread awareness in the media and on Facebook and Twitter.
Write to your elected officials---we must insist that the Obama administration denounce this bill.
Read up on the issue to increase your knowledge. Here are some helpful links:
We, the undersigned, denounce and reject the bill that wrests control of Afghanistan's women's shelters from the local Afghan NGOs that have founded and run them and transfers it to the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA).
For years, while the government turned a blind eye to the abuse of women, these shelters were the only refuge in the country for women and girls brave enough to flee their torturers and assert their rights. The bill's wrongheaded, misogynistic approach to the abuse of women and the government's attempt to justify itself by vilifying the shelters that have found justice for thousands of females have sparked outrage among people the world over who care about the rights and safety of Afghan women and girls.
We demand that you withdraw this regulation and use your power to protect rather than trample on women's human rights in Afghanistan.
Keep up the great work. Look what you've accomplished!
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