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UN decries 'low, uneven' use of law protecting Afghan women

by Dylan Welch, Reuters /  / Updated 
Burqa-clad Afghan women make their way on the outskirts of Jalalabad on Oct. 16.
Burqa-clad Afghan women make their way on the outskirts of Jalalabad on Oct. 16.Noorullah Shirzada / AFP - Getty Images

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KABUL - Afghanistan is failing to use a law designed to protect women from violence in a country regularly voted one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The plight of women in Afghanistan captured the world's attention during the 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban when women were not allowed to leave their houses without a male relative, girls were barred from school and adulterers were shot or stoned to death.

Women have since won back rights to education and work, but there are fears these freedoms are shrinking as NATO-led forces prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year. 

The United Nations examined the Elimination of Violence Against Women law, enacted as a presidential decree in 2009 and passed by parliament earlier this year. 

"The landmark law ... was a huge achievement for all Afghans, but implementation has been slow and uneven," U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a report released on Sunday. 

There had been an increase in reporting violence against women but a failure to prosecute, said the head of the U.N. human rights office in Afghanistan, Georgette Gagnon. 

Registration of reports of violence had risen 28 percent over the year, but use of the law had increased by only two percent. 

"This suggests that use of the law to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women remains low," she said. 

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