AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
KABUL: The upcoming NATO summit in Chicago must ensure that special measures are taken to protect the rights of Afghan women as US-led coalition forces prepare to pull out, UN organisations said Saturday.
There is widespread concern that gains women have made in the 10 years since the overthrow of the brutal Taliban regime could be lost in government attempts to reconcile with the hardline Islamists when NATO troops withdraw in 2014.
"Now is the time to deal with the longer-term security and protection needs of Afghan women who have long borne the brunt of the war in Afghanistan," said Jan Kubis, special representative for the UN secretary general in Afghanistan.
"Women's specific protection needs should be central to plans being made as the Afghan national army and police prepare to take an increasing lead in security operations and the NATO-ISAF mission evolves from combat operations to training and assistance to Afghan forces."
Kubis's remarks came in a joint statement by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund ahead of the summit on May 20-21.
In Chicago, heads of state and government will consider funding for the Afghan security forces after the transition and how that can be linked to support for the protection of human rights, the statement said.
One way of doing this would be for the paramilitary police to be trained and equipped for a greater civilian policing role and "sensitised to address effectively cases of violence against women and girls".
The Taliban banned girls from going to school, whipped women in the street if they wore anything other than the all-enveloping burqa and stoned to death those accused of adultery.
While girls are back in school and women have won much greater protection under the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, the British charity Oxfam says 87 percent of Afghan women report having experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage.