KABUL -- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Monday (November 25) credited the Afghan government and prosecutors for increased efforts to hold the perpetrators of sexual assault and rape to account, while urging authorities to do more to counter violence against women in the country.
"Doing so sends the signal that such behaviour is criminal and unacceptable," UNAMA said Monday in a statement as it marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The theme of this year's observance is ending sexual violence and rape, a massive problem in Afghanistan where many women are still routinely mistreated and attacked because of their gender.
"Ongoing impunity and the pervasive normalisation of sexual and gender-based violence must end," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.
More work needs to be done and said the government should review a law aimed at reducing violence against women, said Aleta Miller, country representative of UN Women Afghanistan.
"We call on the government to redouble its efforts to fully implement the law and end impunity for violent crimes against women and girls," Miller said.
Upsurge in violence against women
The rate of violence against women increased in recent months, according to research released at the weekend by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
The commission recorded 2,762 incidents during the period of March-October, a rise of 8.2% over the same time frame a year earlier.
Most assaults (37.7%) took the form of verbal or psychological violence, while physical abuse accounted for 26% of all cases.
The AIHRC tallied only 123 cases of sexual violence, likely just a tiny fraction of actual incidents, as many women are afraid to come forward.
Under-reporting of violence against women is an issue in almost every country, said Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch.
But in Afghanistan, such under-reporting is "extreme" because of a combination of factors "including the poor response by the justice system, lack of female police officers, lack of access to shelter for women and girls who need to flee abuse... [and the] lack of other forms of protection for victims of violence", Barr told AFP.
While women have made significant gains since the days of the Taliban, they still are subject to deeply held sexist beliefs that persist across Afghanistan.