Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Delivered in Plenary - 15th December 2011

Mr President

The situation of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan remains serious. Human rights abuses perpetrated against women remain commonplace, sadly, and more worryingly are frequently tolerated by the authorities. Pakistanís tradition of honour killings must be addressed in particular, and the government there must take much stronger action to ensure that this crime in particular does not go unpunished. Genital mutilation is still reported in some rural parts of Pakistan, and therefore we urge the authorities to investigate these alleged crimes fully as well.

Afghanistan, for its part, has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, and we call upon the Afghan Government to do more in the area of maternal health. Sharia law enacted in some areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan permits the execution of pregnant women, and this must, of course, be condemned in the strongest possible terms and is indeed against UN international human rights declarations.

Despite the significant financial and technical EU aid in Afghanistan, girls and women are still experiencing major difficulties in accessing primary education due to deeply-rooted cultural discrimination against the female sex. Safeguards aiming to ensure gender equality are not acted upon, especially in the recruitment of women to positions of influence, such as the national legislature or the judiciary. It is imperative that this situation is addressed and a concrete, lasting and enforceable solution found before NATO ISAF forces finally withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

The recent talks at the Bonn Conference were indeed encouraging. We believe that, as well as the measures taken by the governments of the countries themselves, the Commission should give even more assistance to those projects that promote and protect the rights of women in these two countries.