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Women’s Rights at Risk in Afghan Peace Process
As peace talks in Afghanistan pick up momentum, women in Afghanistan remain at risk. Under Taliban rule, Afghan women were banned from schools and work, faced public beatings and executions, and endured severe restrictions on their movement. Since the U.S. supported the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, many of these restrictions have been lifted, and the number of Afghan women and girls in schools, the economy, and parliament has steadily increased. Women are concerned, however, that this progress is at risk under current peace talks with the Taliban, at which women have been largely excluded: in twenty-three rounds of talks between 2005 and 2014, women were at the negotiating table on only two occasions. Evidence suggests that including women in peace processes not only allows them to protect their rights, but also fosters security and stability.
#MeToo Movement Spreads Across Asia
Two recent legal victories for women in Asia represent important milestones for the #MeToo movement. In the culmination of a three-year battle for justice, the Pakistani Supreme Court convicted a man who stabbed Khadija Siddiqi, a 21-year-old law student who was picking her sister up at school. Siddiqi’s case drew support from across Pakistan under the #JusticeForKhadija campaign. Also last week, a senior South Korean prosecutor was sentenced to two years in prison for harassing a colleague and retaliating against her for coming forward, a case that subsequently triggered a steady stream of accusations against prominent Korean politicians, professors, journalists and religious leaders. These successes have been tempered by a backlash, however, in which perpetrators use the courts in an attempt to punish women for speaking out: in China, for example, a powerful television star filed a defamation suit against an intern who accused him of harassment, demanding damages for reputational harm. If his lawsuit is successful, activists fear it will silence women who face harassment.
Twenty-thousand Nigerian Women Trafficked to Mali
Last week, the head of Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency reported that at least 20,000 Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked from Nigeria to Mali. A fact-finding team from the Nigerian government and the International Organization for Migration discovered the staggering number of trafficking victims during a visit to the region last month. The women and girls, most between the ages of 16 and 30, were either abducted or told that they would be offered jobs in the hospitality industry, but instead were forced to work as prostitutes. According to the 2018 U.S. State Department Trafficking Report, forced abduction is a serious problem in Nigeria, with thousands of women and girls trafficked across West Africa every year.