Afghan to protect women

July 15, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, July 15 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai is poised to sign into law a bill which would punish those who perpetrate violence against women, a US lawmaker told a briefing Tuesday.

"We’ve learned in the last 24 hours or so that a bill that’s been pending in the parliament in Afghanistan and been reviewed by the ministry of justice to eliminate violence against women is going to be signed by President Karzai," US lawmaker Carolyn Maloney said at the briefing on Capitol Hill.

Under the bill, men who bar women from getting an education, working, or obtaining healthcare could face six months in prison, said Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health Sayed Mohammed Amin Fatimie, who was at the briefing along with Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad.

The briefing, called by the bipartisan Congressional Women’s Caucus, focused on maternal health in Afghanistan, which has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world after Sierra Leone, the west African nation ravaged for nearly three decades of civil war.

Afghanistan has also endured three decades of conflict, starting with the Soviet invasion in 1979. International troops are still in the country try to beat back a resurgence of the Taliban, ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001.

Women’s rights were trampled on during the long years of conflict, which also left Afghanistan’s health infrastructure in ruins, Maloney said.

One in eight women die in childbirth in Afghanistan compared with one in 4,800 in the United States, and most of the deaths could be prevented if women had access to primary care and basic obstetrics, she said.

Women in Afghanistan are also "dying needlessly because of chronic malnutrition or lack of potable water," the congresswoman from New York said.

"They are dying because medical facilities lack equipment or the means to provide care. They are dying because they have too many children too quickly at too young an age," Maloney said.

In a report issued last week in Geneva, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed Afghanistan for failing to curb violence against women and for sustaining a culture of impunity that leaves such crimes unpunished.


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