Protection and promotion of the rights of Afghan women and girls a priority

The alleged rape of a 10-year-old Afghan girl by a mullah in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, provides grim foreshadowing of the fragility of hard-won rights for women and girls in Afghanistan. The victim, who suffered severe internal injuries from the alleged rape, has received death threats from her own family, who are seeking a so-called honor killing. Staff at a women’s shelter that sought to protect the child have also received death threats. The victim’s family and some other mullahs support the alleged rapist’s explanation that he had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with the girl.

The Kunduz case, as reported by the New York Times on Saturday, is a horrific reminder of the need for Afghanistan’s next president to make the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls a priority for his administration. That should include vigorous enforcement of the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW Law), signed by President Hamid Karzai in 2009, which for the first time made rape, child marriage, and forced marriage crimes in Afghanistan and imposed tough new penalties for domestic violence. While the EVAW Law represented crucial progress for Afghan women, enforcement of its provisions by the Afghan government has been disappointingly slow and patchy.