Thisop-ed has been written by John R. Bass, US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Kabul Now has published it with no editorial change.
I would like to extend an invitation. It is open to each and every person in
Afghanistan; every man and woman; young and old; those living from Nimroz to
Badakhshan, from Paktika to Herat, and everyone in between; Pashtun, Hazara and
Tajik, and yes, even Taliban. Join me in
ending gender-based violence (GBV) in Afghanistan.
Most people who suffer GBV in
Afghanistan do not report the abuse, so it is hard to know exactly how
widespread of an epidemic we face. The
evidence we have demonstrates that the problem in Afghanistan is
staggering. According to Afghanistan’s
2015 Demographic and Health Survey, approximately 87 percent of Afghan women
experience at least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence,
and 62 percent experience at least two. Think about that. Almost every single female in the country –
half the population of Afghanistan – will suffer some form of abuse in their
lifetime. Every mother. Every daughter. Every sister.
Whether behind closed doors or publicly as
a tactic of intimidation, whether in our own neighborhoods or in distant
communities, gender-based violence damages us all—women and men alike. It
cuts across ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and religious lines. It knows no borders. It occurs in Afghanistan, the United States,
and every other nation around the world.
The 16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on
November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against
Women) and runs until December 10 (International Human Rights Day). You may see people wearing orange ribbons to
raise awareness about the scourge of GBV.
Gender-based violence can take only minutes to inflict, but it can
result in a lifetime of pain, suffering and lost potential. These 16 days are an opportunity to assess
our efforts to prevent and prosecute gender-based violence.
nations, including Afghanistan, passed legislation addressing GBV. The
next critical step is to improve the implementation of those laws across
Afghanistan in order to increase accountability and address impunity. That’s why the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) works to train Afghan judges, police, and prosecutors to
better respond to and prosecute cases of gender-based violence. USAID also teaches health workers to
recognize, treat, and report cases of abuse.
Similarly, the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs supports organizations that provide legal defense,
advice, and assistance to victims of GBV.
The United States believes investing in women and girls is a critical part of our duty to promote peace, security, and prosperity around the world. We invest in the training and mentoring of women entrepreneurs, so they not only lift up their own families, but also help the Afghan economy grow. We invest in girls’ education so that they can escape forced early marriage, rape, break the cycle of poverty, and develop into community leaders and engaged citizens. But I also invite men and boys to take action since change cannot happen without all people being engaged. Men and boys must speak up for the females in their lives, to stand up to GBV whenever they witness it, and to work to change gender norms and attitudes.
Join me and my colleagues across the U.S.
Embassy and the rest of the international community as we work with our Afghan
partners across all sectors to overcome the deep-rooted gender inequalities
that either tacitly allow or actively promote violent and discriminatory
practices in Afghanistan. The reason is
simple: Gender-based violence prevents
Afghan women and girls from reaching their full potential, and no country can
progress or have peace and prosperity if it leaves half of its population