Rights Defenders Score a Victory on Afghan Women’s Shelters

KABUL, Afghanistan – UN Dispatch received confirmation late yesterday that the Afghan government has scrapped its plan to take over shelters for abused women and will work with women’s groups to improve shelter conditions. The move came after two weeks of intense activism by Afghan human rights defenders and resulting diplomatic pressure from the government’s Western allies.

Though president Hamid Karzai spoke briefly of a reversal three days ago, the details of the compromise reached between his government and women’s groups were still unclear. They’re not anymore. Instead of taking control of shelters run by non-governmental organizations, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs will form a joint committee with women’s rights organizations to monitor the quality of shelters and establish shelters where non currently exist. And, contrary to earlier and widely-maligned proposals by a hardline government commission, women and girls housed in shelters will not be forcibly returned to their families.

The Afghan government’s concessions can be attributed to the loud, sustained advocacy of civil society groups and the diplomatic support women’s groups demanded and received for their cause.

Victories in the struggle for human rights in Afghanistan are few and far between, but this one undeniably saved lives