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Afghanistan has experienced many conflicts in the last 100 years. Conflict and instability has ensured that its economy and infrastructure have been destroyed – Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Overview of past and present security situation
After the fall of the Taliban administration in 2001, Afghanistan’s hard-line Islamic movement has re-grouped, in the form of insurgents, against President Karzai’s democratic government. This is particularly so in the border regions in the south and east and, as such, Afghan national unity is proving extremely difficult to secure.
Twelve years after the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the US and UK led NATO forces into the country in 2001. Currently, NATO leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a peacekeeping body made up of troops from, amongst other, the US, UK, Canada and Germany.
Alongside military operations, the British government leads a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand, South Afghanistan, which consists of military, political and developmental components. In the financial year 2010-2011 the UK expenditure for civilian programmes was £220 million. This is dwarfed by the military spending of £4.5 billion.
Society and women
Since 2001, gains have been made for women in Afghan society, such as access to education, the right to work and more freedom of movement outside the home. However, large proportions of the population live without access to basic services and this has worsened with the deterioration of security situation. Serious human rights violations and large-scale displacement of people is contributing to Afghanistan’s growing poverty and insecurity.
Women continue to suffer hugely. Discrimination and violence is often legitimised by traditional laws in many parts of the country. Gender based violence is widespread across the country and is mostly experienced by women. The violence includes:
- Sexual and domestic violence
- Forced marriage
- Exchange of women/girls as payment and trafficking
Womankind Worldwide notes that the justice system remains inaccessible and provides no effective protection for women and girls and perpetrators often remain unpunished and it is common that it is she, the victim, who will be harshly prosecuted.
Without full civil and political participation, women become further victimised by the criminal justice system. There is a desperate need for gender sensitive security and justice sector reform in Afghanistan.
Despite the challenges that they face, Afghanistan has a courageous and growing women's movement. The Afghan Women's Network is a network providing a platform for women's civil society mobilisation and political participation in Afghanistan. As the international community prepares for discussions on transition and reconciliation activities ten years after military intervention, they are campaigning to make sure that women's voices are heard. Find out more about what actions are taking place on our campaign website: No women, no peace.