Afghan women’s rights challenged but developing

For Afghan women, the fall of the Taliban brought historic change. More than two million girls are now in school. Some women are able to work, even in the most public of jobs.

Lara Logan

2009-10-16

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Oct. 14, CBS News international correspondent Lara Logan broadcast a report on the issues facing women in Afghanistan. A transcript is provided below.

KABUL — For Afghan women, the fall of the Taliban brought historic change. More than two million girls are now in school. Some women are able to work, even in the most public of jobs.

Others can now enjoy the simple feminine pleasures they were denied. In the cities, a growing number of women cover only their heads (instead of their whole bodies). All of this would have been unthinkable under the Taliban. "Women couldn't move out of their houses, couldn't move around freely or alone," said Dr Massouda Jalal.

Jalal was jailed by the Taliban for her work helping women and children. She remembers their cruelty and women being publicly executed during the height of Taliban power.

After the NATO invasion, Jalal became a symbol of how much had changed for Afghan women. In 2004, she was the first woman to run for president, finishing well ahead of most male candidates.

She was appointed Minister of Women's Affairs, but was later removed for pushing too aggressively for women's rights.

"We have provisions protecting women's rights and promoting women's rights within the constitution," said Jalal. "But it's not translated into action."

Female prisoners in Kabul today seem to have no rights at all.

Kamela is just 29 years old. A mother of two, she left her life in Canada to return to her homeland when the Taliban fell. All it took to put her behind bars for three years was her husband's word. He accused her of stealing from him.

"After I was imprisoned he got married to another woman," she says, "I think he wanted to get re-married so he put me here."

Even more disturbing is that violent attacks against women and girls continue today.

Atifa Bibi lies in a hospital, her face badly burned. She and a friend were victims of an acid attack late last year as they walked to school.

Her wounds have healed, but she no longer goes to school. She said she has nightmares almost every night. "It will not go away; every minute, it is with me."

Rates of violence against Afghan women are among the highest in the world.

So is the maternal mortality rate. Three years ago, the remote province of Badakhshan had the highest maternal mortality rate ever recorded; that remains true today. 6,500 deaths per 100,000 births, compared to just 13 deaths per 100,000 in the U.S.

The medical staff in Badakhshan say most women are forbidden by their husbands from coming to the clinic or from seeing male doctors.

In spite of these barriers, there has been progress. The number of Afghan women with access to newly built clinics has risen in recent years. But so has the influence of the Taliban. As the fight for control of the country intensifies, the small, fragile gains achieved by women and their most basic human rights are threatened.

[CBS News]

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