The European Union on Wednesday voiced serious concern over recent remarks by Afghanistan's Justice minister Habibullah Ghaleb suggesting that women's shelters in the war-torn country were turning into centers of "immorality and prostitution."
On Sunday, Ghaleb told a conference organized by the women's affairs committee of the Upper House of Parliament that foreign-funded rights awareness groups were encouraging young women to defy their parents.
Noting that Western rights groups were encouraging young girls to stay in shelters set up for them if their family members force them to do anything against their will, the Minister asked: "What safe houses? What sort of immorality and prostitution was not happening at those places?."
His remarks triggered an outrage across Afghanistan which had made progress on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban regime. Rights activists have called for the immediate resignation of the Justice Minister for making such unthoughtful comments.
In a statement issued by her office on Wednesday, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was deeply troubled by Ghaleb's comments. She also noted that his comments were a setback to efforts aimed at fighting violence against women in Afghanistan, including the need to provide victims with safe places to take shelter.
Noting that many women in Afghanistan have been subjected to gender-based as well as sexual violence on a repeated basis, Ashton said: "Women forced to resort to shelters are amongst the bravest Afghans we know; they refuse to continue being victimized and instead have acted to ensure their own safety and that of their children."
Ashton said such Afghan women deserved strong support from the international community and the Afghan government, and added that she looked "forward to seeing the results of the new law on the Elimination of Violence against Women which, if implemented properly, has the potential to protect women against violence and ensure the safety of victims."
by RTT Staff Writer
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