December 06, 2013

Cardin, Boxer, Casey, Leahy, Shaheen, Blumenthal And Ayotte Urge President Hamid Karzai To Protect Women In The Afghan National Police

An Alarming 70 Percent of Afghan Policewomen Report Experiencing Sexual Harassment or Sexual Violence

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai urging him to take immediate action to protect women within the Afghan National Police (ANP).


“We are deeply concerned by recent reports of endemic sexual violence and harassment of Afghan policewomen by their male counterparts,” the Senators wrote. “These brave women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

A recent United Nations report found that 90 percent of Afghan police women viewed sexual harassment and sexual violence as a serious problem and that 70 percent had personally experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence.


In the bipartisan letter, the Senators praised the steps the Afghan government has already taken to protect and support women in the ANP, but urged President Karzai to expand efforts to recruit, retain and promote qualified women, who currently make up less than one percent of the ANP force.


“As Afghan policewomen work to build a better future for their communities, we hope you agree they deserve nothing less than to know their government will do everything it can to protect them in return,” the Senators wrote.

The full text of the letter follows:

December 6, 2013

His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Dear President Karzai:

 

We write to urge you to take immediate and concrete action to improve the situation of women within the Afghan National Police (ANP). We are deeply concerned by recent reports of endemic sexual violence and harassment of Afghan policewomen by their male counterparts. These brave women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

 

According to available information, a recent unpublished United Nations report found that 90 percent of Afghan policewomen viewed sexual harassment and sexual violence as a serious problem and that 70 percent had personally experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence. In addition, a report released in September by Oxfam International describes further challenges facing Afghan policewomen including resistance to women in the ANP and a lack of female-specific facilities such as private, locked female restrooms.

                                                                                                                  

Unfortunately, many Afghan policewomen are afraid to report or even complain about these problems out of fear that they will be fired, demoted, or even forced to serve far away from their homes and families. They are also deterred from reporting problems by the fact that there appear to have been no successful prosecutions in these cases, and in the extremely rare situations in which there have been prosecutions, the government’s failure to provide any type of protection to complainants has typically lead to them recanting after threats. The situation is made more precarious by the fact that women make up less than one percent of the ANP’s 157,000 members.

 

We appreciate the steps your government has taken to protect and support women in the ANP—including the increased recruitment of female officers, the construction of female facilities at several police training centers, and the implementation of gender training for all police officers. We also welcome your Ten Year Vision for the Afghan National Police, which includes a commitment to 10 percent female participation rates by 2024.

 

We urge you to continue and expand these types of efforts to encourage recruitment and retention of qualified women in the ANP. We also urge you to expand opportunities for the advancement of women in the ANP so that they are represented at the highest levels. In order to effectively tackle these issues and meet the commitment outlined in the Ten Year Vision, we encourage your government to develop and implement a large-scale recruitment and information campaign regarding women in the police. We stand ready to assist you in these endeavors.

 

We believe Afghan policewomen have an essential role in promoting security and stability in Afghanistan. For example, your Ministry of Interior has estimated that 12,000 women will be needed to ensure women’s participation in the upcoming April, 2014 elections. Therefore, Afghan policewomen could play a crucial role in searching women at checkpoints on their way to polling stations and by working in the polling stations. This will not only help in promoting security but ensuring Afghan women will be able to vote. 

Afghan women choose to serve their country in the ANP at great personal risk. The recent tragic assassinations of Second Lieutenant Nigara and Lieutenant Islam Bibi in Helmand province are a stark reminder of the very real threats these women face each and every day. As Afghan policewomen work to build a better future for their communities, we hope you agree they deserve nothing less than to know their government will do everything it can to protect them in return. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Benjamin L. Cardin

United States Senator 

 

Barbara Boxer 

United States Senator

 

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

 

Patrick J. Leahy

United States Senator

 

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator 

 

Richard Blumenthal

United States Senator

 

Kelly Ayotte

United States Senator

 


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