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Street Harassment is Hurting Afghanistan’s Democracy and Development

War has devastating consequences on a country and the wounds it leaves behind take generations to heal. For more than four decades, the women of Afghanistan have borne witness to the horrendous aftermath of armed conflict and violence. A direct consequence of the protracted war in the country is the violation of women’s fundamental rights. Women are unable to enjoy the freedoms that are explicitly guaranteed by the constitution and face immense risks even walking in public.

Deeply rooted patriarchal mindset, widespread misogyny, and little to no legal repercussions for perpetrators are the main causes behind the worsening incidents of street harassment. According to the Human Rights Watch report, approximately 87 per cent of Afghan women experience some sort of violence ranging from forced marriages to psychological trauma to physical and sexual harassment. Unfortunately, young men who are supposed to be the future of the country, are the harassers in a majority of these cases. Shrinking social spaces not only dent women’s morale, but also harm Afghanistan’s democracy and development. We as citizens must work towards social change by condemning these unacceptable acts and making the streets safer and more welcoming to half the population. We must teach young boys and men to respect human dignity in order to prevent further social decay.

Recently, we have witnessed efforts from civil society activists, NGO’s such as Young Women for Change, and artists like Kubra Khademi who protested against sexual harassment in public by wearing a metal armor while walking the streets of Kabul. Unfortunately, such endeavors invite major societal backlash. The Afghan government is making some attempts at improving women's predicament: it passed a bill prohibiting harassment against women and children as well as regulations against sexual harassment at the workplace. However, the state and society have a long way to go to in order to create and promote safe home and public environment for our women.

Nooria Sultani is WRN’s Regional Advisor from Afghanistan and is currently based in New-Delhi.

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