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Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she has taken to protect the human rights of women in Afghanistan; and if she will make a statement.[16039]

UK assistance in Afghanistan is guided by a common position agreed with other aid donors. This calls on all parties to recognise, protect and promote the equal rights and dignity of men and women, including access to education, employment outside the home, personal security and freedom from intimidation and harassment, and to support only aid programmes which actively attempt to promote the equitable participation of both men and women.In repeated representations to the Taliban and other factions, we have urged respect for women's human rights, for example in urging them to relax their restrictions on women's work and education. We are also supporting Oxfam to research gender issues and advocate for women's rights in Kabul.My Department has recently appointed a field manager for Afghanistan to monitor our programme and its relation to human rights more effectively. A team from my Department is currently in Afghanistan looking into these issues amongst others.We will continue to give a high priority to measures aimed at protecting human rights in Afghanistan in the UN, the Afghanistan Donor Support Group and other fora.