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Supporting Afghan Women’s Rights

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24 November 2011
Supporting Afghan Women’s Rights On Wednesday I attended an event in Parliament to show my support for the rights of women in Afghanistan. Many of my constituents have written to me on this issue, pushing that gender equality and human rights must be key parts of any final political settlement in Afghanistan. I agree that the UK Government must continue to work with our international partners and pursue a political settlement that upholds basic human rights, religious freedom and gender equality.

In the last ten years, millions of Afghan women and girls have seen progress in their lives: two and a half million girls are enrolled in school; women can work outside their homes; the constitution grants women and men equal rights. Afghan women were able to vote for the first time in the nationwide elections of 2004, and despite intimidation and violence from the Taliban over 40% of those registered to vote were women. This progress has been possible through a combination of the bravery, skill and dedication of the international forces – including 9,500 British troops – that have fought against the brutal oppression of the Taliban, and the desire of the Afghan Government and people to live in peace, freedom and with mutual respect for human rights.

However, there are grave concerns that as the process of reconciliation begins and troops withdraw these hard won gains, which are already under pressure, are in danger of being lost. If the human rights of women and girls are not front and centre of peace negotiations, it will be an absolute tragedy. I hope that the upcoming Bonn II International Conference ensures that any agreements made at Bonn explicitly call for women’s rights in Afghanistan to be protected and for Afghan women to meaningfully participate in all peace processes.

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