The UK has regular discussions with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and supports the efforts of the EU Special Representative on the implementation of human rights, including women’s rights, in Afghanistan.
Afghan women, excluded by the Taliban, now play an active part in everyday life in Afghanistan. Their equality is enshrined in the Afghan Constitution, which also protects their right to participate in Afghan political life. 27 per cent. of seats in the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament are held by women. Women also enjoy equal access to the Afghan education system. 37 per cent. of students in Afghanistan are girls and a third of teachers are women. 19 per cent. of students enrolled in higher education are women. In addition, the Constitution requires the Government to uphold its obligations under international law. Rape and forced marriage are prohibited by Afghanistan’s obligations under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, both of which Afghanistan has ratified. That said, securing the full participation of Afghan women in all sectors of the economy and society will take time and we acknowledge that serious problems remain. We remain committed to working with the Afghan Government and their international partners to improve women’s ability to exercise their rights.
Although the situation of women in Iran is in some respects better than in other countries in the region, we remain concerned about the discrimination faced by women in Iran. Domestic violence remains a serious problem, women’s participation in the labour forceis low and women continue to face significant discrimination in the legal system. For example, the evidence of a woman is worth less than that of a man in court, and women do not enjoy equal rights in cases involving divorce, inheritance or the custody of children.
We raise women’s rights and other human rights concerns regularly with the Iranian authorities, bilaterally and through the EU. We were pleased that all EU countries co-sponsored a draft resolution at this year’s UN General Assembly, approved by Third Committee on 21 November, which expressed serious concern at the continuing violence and discrimination against women and girls, and called upon the Iranian Government to
“eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls”.
The UK has regular discussions with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and supports the efforts of the EU Special Representative on the implementation of human rights, including women’s rights, in Afghanistan. The Afghan Constitution requires the Afghan Government to uphold their obligations under international law. Afghanistan is a party to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which prohibit rape and forced marriage. Challenges remain but we are committed to assist the Afghan Government in the implementation of their international obligations.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), through the Global Opportunities Fund (GOF), is sponsoring a number of projects specifically designed to empower women, by increasing their access to justice, improving their living standards, promoting their equal participation in governance, creating a professional network of women’s rights organisations and promoting access to information through the radio. Through the GOF, the FCO supports the UK Bar Human Rights Committee project of human rights training for legal practitioners with a specific focus on women’s rights (£240,000 over three years). Other projects include Global Rights: Women’s Rights Advocacy in Afghanistan, which will produce a report on violations of women’s rights focusing on domestic violence, and a parallel report on CEDAW implementation (£165,000); and Action Aid: Afghan Women Affecting Change, which aims to create a professional network of women’s rights organisations (£157,000).