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'Karzai must enforce violence against women law'

Published: 04th September 2013 03:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th September 2013 03:39 PM   |  A+A-

Karzai_AP
By IANS

Afghan President Hamid Karzai should take urgent action to fight child marriage and domestic violence or risk further harm to development and public health, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

In a 15-page briefing paper, Human Rights Watch highlights the health and economic consequences of marriage under age 18 and violence against women and girls in Afghanistan. 

Karzai, barred by term limits from running in the April 2014 presidential election, should make full enforcement of the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women a priority for his last year in office.

"Karzai's signing of the violence against women law in 2009 ushered in vital protections against child marriage and domestic violence," said Liesl Gerntholtz, women's rights director at Human Rights Watch. 

"By ensuring the law is enforced, Karzai would leave a lasting legacy of support for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan."

The law imposed tough new penalties for abuse of women, including making child marriage and forced marriage crimes under Afghan law for the first time. 

Child marriage remains common in Afghanistan, increasing the likelihood of early pregnancy, which heightens the risk of death and injury in childbirth. 

Children born as a result of child marriages also suffer increased health risks. 

An estimated 2,000 Afghan women and girls attempt suicide by setting themselves on fire each year, which is linked to domestic violence and early or forced marriages.

In the decade since the overthrow of the Taliban government, Afghanistan has failed to take measures adopted by other Islamic countries and countries with large Muslim populations to curtail child marriage and domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said. 

Human Rights Watch urged Karzai to initiate awareness campaigns about the harms of child marriage and domestic violence.

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