August 07, 2009

BIPARTISAN COALITION URGES AFGHANISTAN TO ENSURE WOMEN CANDIDATES AND VOTERS FULL PARTICIPATION IN THE AUGUST 20 ELECTIONS

Senate Passes Resolution Urging Afghanistan to Address Security Threats Facing Women

Washington, DC - As women running for political office in Afghanistan face threats and intimidation leading up to the country's elections on August 20, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, along with a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers, joined together to officially urge the government in Afghanistan to hold fair and safe elections for Afghan women candidates and voters. 

 

The Senate today passed a resolution, introduced by nearly a dozen members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which called on the Afghan government to work with women leaders and human rights organizations to ensure that women have a seat in formal committees charged with monitoring election security, women candidates have access to media outlets, and women voters have adequate security and staff at female polling stations on Election Day.

 

"It will be impossible for Afghanistan to move forward in growing its democracy and enhancing its human rights record until women are given an equal path to participation as candidates and voters. This path must be safe and free from violence or intimidation for all," said Senator Cardin.

 

According to a recent report by the Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, there have been at least 15 complaints from female candidates about intimidation. The Ministry of Interior took steps to assign an officer to any female provincial candidate who requested one.

 

With only one female governor in Afghanistan, Afghan women are overwhelmingly under-represented in the political sphere. Until more women serve in higher office, Afghanistan will not begin to solve its illiteracy and under-age marriage problems. Currently, two women candidates are running for president while more than 330 are running in the provincial council elections. Of the 4.5 million new voters who have registered for the first time in this year's polls, approximately 38% are female.

 

The resolution was co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Mark Begich (D-AK).