Afghanistan: Afghan Women's Bill of Rights

Women for Afghan Women
The Afghan Women's Bill of Rights was drafted, signed, and presented to President Hamid Karzai by women leaders from every region of Afghanistan, who participated in the third annual conference of Women for Afghan Women (WAW).
This conference, entitled "Women and the Constitution: Kandahar 2003", was held on Sept. 2-5 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in partnership with Afghans for Civil Society and the Afghan Women’s Network.
The conference was pioneering for two reasons. First, it was held outside Kabul, in fact in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. Second, it brought together 45 ethnically diverse women, community leaders in the movement for women's and human rights in Afghanistan, many of whom were grassroots women's rights activists, both educated and under-educated, from rural provinces all around the country.

This document was created entirely by the participants, with each right debated and its wording unanimously agreed upon before inclusion into the document. This document was presented to Minister of Women's Affairs, Habiba Sarabi, the Constitutional Commission of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, and President Karzai. In addition, the conference participants are distributing the Bill of Rights throughout the country to educate communities about women's and human rights. WAW is proud to have supported the dynamic voices represented in this document. We continue to stand with our sisters Afghanistan in the struggle for their rights, especially in this critical moment in history.

Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights

On September 5, 2003, in the historic city of Kandahar, we, the Afghan Muslim participants in the conference “Women and the Constitution: Kandahar 2003”, from Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, Herat, Wardak, Jousjan, Badakhshan, Samangan, Farah, Logar, Gardez, Kapisa, Uruzgan, Paktia, Helmand, Baghlan, Sar-e-Pul, having considered the issues of the constitution that affect the futures of ourselves, our children, and our society, make the following demands on behalf of the women of Afghanistan. Moreover, as representatives of all of Afghan women, we demand that these rights are not only secured in the constitution but implemented.

1. Mandatory education for women through secondary school and opportunities for all women for higher education.

2. Provision of up-to-date health services for women with special attention to reproductive rights.

3. Protection and security for women: the prevention and criminalization of sexual harassment against women publicly and in the home, of sexual abuse of women and children, of domestic violence, and of “bad blood-price” (the use of women as compensation for crimes by one family against another).

4. Reduction of the time before women can remarry after their husbands have disappeared, and mandatory government support of women during that time.

5. Freedom of speech.

6. Freedom to vote and run for election to office.

7. Rights to marry and divorce according to Islam.

8. Equal pay for equal work.

9. Right to financial independence and ownership of property.

10. Right to participate fully and to the highest levels in the economic and commercial life of the country.

11. Mandatory provision of economic opportunities for women.

12. Equal representation of women in the Loya Jirga and Parliament.

13. Full inclusion of women in the judiciary system.

14. Minimum marriageable age set at 18 years.

15. Guarantee of all constitutional rights to widows, disabled women, and orphans.

16. Full rights of inheritance.

Additional demands affecting the lives of women:

1. Disarmament and national security.

2. Trials of war criminals in international criminal courts and the disempowerment of warlords.

3. A strong central government.

4. A commitment to end government corruption.

5. Decisive action against foreign invasion and protection of the sovereignty of Afghanistan

WAW have much to share about their experiences in Kabul and Kandahar. Please visit their website for more information.