in brief: afghanistan’s female police fighting for women’s-only facilities
Many female police officers in Afghanistan have no female-dedicated facilities, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Despite a series of ad campaigns targeting women, as well as Western-funded training programs, there is no place for women to change clothes privately. The HRW report indicates that women are yet to be truly accepted into the police force.
Female officers make up less than 1.4% of the nation’s 157,000 officer-strong force.
HRW has recommended that lockable, separate bathrooms be built to protect female officers from sexual harassment. ‘We have to use male facilities. Toilets and changing rooms are an absolute necessity for women working in the police,’ said a senior officer who asked not to be named because her superiors had not authorised an interview.
‘The Afghan government’s failure to provide female police officers with safe, secure facilities makes them more vulnerable to abuse,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. ‘This is not just about toilets. It’s about the government’s recognition that women have a crucial role to play in law enforcement in Afghanistan.’
HRW said it had been able to confirm the existence of only three dedicated female facilities nationwide. Kabul’s police chief, Ayoub Salangi, reportedly ordered the construction of female bathrooms and change-rooms, but according to The Guardian, refused female officers permission to speak to reporters.
Sexual harassment is rife in public and private sectors of Afghanistan’s workforce, and there have been numerous media reports of the rape of female police officers by male colleagues in recent years.
The presence of female police officers will encourage women to report violence and pursue justice, according to HRW. ‘Harassment and abuse is an everyday experience for many Afghan women,’ Adams said. ‘Without the consistent presence of female police officers across the country, legal protections for women will remain an unfulfilled promise.’
Similar calls for female-only facilities in Afghanistan have been ignored in the past.