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KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan women are frequent victims of abuse, despite some success by authorities in prosecuting rape cases, forced marriages and domestic violence under a 3-year-old law, according to a report issued Tuesday by the United Nations.
The report came out a day after gunmen shot and killed the head of the women’s affairs department for eastern Laghman province. Afghan officials said Najia Sediqi, who took the job after her predecessor was killed in a bomb attack in July, was on her way to her office when she was shot dead.
Afghanistan enacted its Elimination of Violence Against Women law in August 2009. It criminalizes child marriage, selling and buying women to settle disputes, assault and more than a dozen other acts of violence and abuse against women.
The U.N. collected information from 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces during a 12-month period ending in September to find out how well the law was being implemented.
“Although prosecutors and courts were increasingly applying the law in a growing number of reported incidents, the overall use of the law remained low, indicating there is still a long way to go before women and girls in Afghanistan are fully protected from violence through the law,” the report said.
Incidents of violence against women remain largely under-reported because of cultural restraints, social norms and religious beliefs, according to the report.
It was filled with anecdotal evidence of abuse.
A prosecutor in a district of northern Kunduz province told the U.N. researchers, “A woman by the name of Storay was strangled and killed by her husband because of domestic violence and giving birth to female children and not male children.”
A married 15-year-old girl from western Heart province said, “My husband and my father-in-law beat me without any reason several times. The repeated mistreatment had forced me to complain, but (it was) all in vain as the prosecutor overlooked my petition and warned me to either withdraw the complaint or face imprisonment.”
A 10-year-old third grader from eastern Baghlan province was quoted in the report as saying, “My uncle intends to marry me with his son for my property that I inherited from my late father, but I don’t want a husband. Rather I want to pursue my education and live with my mother.”
Widespread discrimination and women’s fears of social stigma or threats to their lives discourage them from seeking to prosecute their offenders.
“We are calling on the Afghan authorities to take, of course, much greater steps to both facilitate reporting of incidents of violence against women and actually open investigations and take on prosecutions,” Georgette Gagnon, human rights director for the U.N. in Afghanistan, told reporters at a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
A rising number of incidents of violence against women are being reported, and courts are issuing more convictions based on the law, but they represent only a fraction of the problem.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights commission recorded more than 4,000 cases of violence against women from March 21 to October 21, but most were not reported to police. In contrast, during the 12-month period that the U.N. reviewed, police and prosecutors in the provinces recorded only 470 incidents.
Indictments were filed in 163 of the cases, or about 35 percent, the report said. Only 72 of the indictments were based on violations of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law. But of those, more than 70 percent resulted in convictions, the report said.
“While advances in using the law are welcome, progress in addressing violence against women will be limited until the law is applied more widely,” Gagnon said.
Though Afghan girls and women continue to suffer, there are signs that views on women’s rights could be slowly changing, at least in the capital.
In July, dozens of women – and men – took to the streets of Kabul to protest the public killing of an Afghan woman accused of adultery. A video of her gruesome, execution-style killing showed the woman being shot multiple times in Parwan province, north of the Afghan capital, as people stood nearby, smiling and cheering.
The protesters marched from the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to a traffic circle near a U.N. compound, and some shouted, “Death to those who did this act!”
Even as the drug policy reform movement celebrates our historic victories legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, we still have to ensure that the states can implement their laws without federal interference.
Several U.S. representatives from Colorado recently introduced a bipartisan bill to help protect our victories by giving the states room to implement the new laws.
Although Colorado and Washington voted to regulate and tax marijuana, these ballot initiatives are not going to implement themselves. We need to do everything we can to ensure the federal government plays a constructive rather than destructive role.
So I did something about it, and I hope you’ll join me. Tell your legislators to support the bill that would enable the states to make their own marijuana laws. Click here to take action:
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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — After nearly 17 years of courtroom arguments, congressional negotiations and Indian Country bickering, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans could see the first payments of a $3.4 billion U.S. government settlement by the end of the year, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday.
The settlement between American Indians across the nation and the government over more than a century’s worth of squandered and mismanaged land trust royalties became final on Friday, when the appeal period expired.
One of the largest U.S. government settlements in history began with a lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. The Blackfeet leader observed that those who leased Indian land made money from its natural resources, while the Indians themselves remained in poverty with no accounting of the royalties from that land that were held in trust for them by the government
Cobell herself led the fight against the government for more than 15 years before she died of cancer last year.
“We all are happy that this settlement can finally be implemented,” lead attorney Dennis Gingold said in a statement Monday. “We deeply regret that Ms. Cobell did not live to see this day.”
Approximately 350,000 beneficiaries could start receiving $1,000 checks by Christmas as the first part of the settlement goes forward, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a statement that said the settlement marks a step forward in reconciliation and a new era in how the government administers its trusts.
“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” Salazar said.
The agreement will pay out $1.5 billion to two classes of beneficiaries. Each member of the first class would be paid $1,000. Each member of the second class would be paid $800 plus a share of the balance of the settlement funds as calculated by a formula based on the activity in their trust accounts.
Another $1.9 billion would be used by the government to purchase fractionated land allotments from willing individuals and turn those consolidated allotments over to the tribe. An education scholarship for young Indians also would be established under the agreement.
Congress approved the deal in December 2010 and U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan approved it after a June 2011 hearing. Hogan said that while the settlement may not be as much as some wished, the deal ended the legal deadlock and provided some certainty for the beneficiaries.
Cobell traveled across Indian Country to explain the deal, but there was opposition. One opponent, Kimberly Craven of Boulder, Colo., took her objections to the Supreme Court, saying the settlement did not include an actual accounting for how much money the government lost and that the deal would overcompensate a select few beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court declined to take up her petition.
Rose Byrne, Juliette Lewis and Bill Hader are also among those heading to the IFC series when it returns in January.
Ahead of the series Jan. 4 premiere (and the Dec. 14 holiday special), the IFC comedy has announced more than a dozen guest stars who will be dropping by the third season.
Perhaps most notably, Roseanne Barr is slated to appear on the Portland-loving sketch comedy show. She’ll join Rose Byrne (Damages) Jim Gaffigan (Bored to Death), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live), Juliette Lewis (Conviction), Matt Lucas (Little Britain), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live), Martina Navratilova, Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), George Wendt (Cheers) and Dirty Projectors.
That group joins the previously announced addition of Chloë Sevigny. The American Horror Story actress is set for several episodes, playing Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein‘s new roommate, Alexandra.
Previous guests Jeff Goldblum, Kyle MacLachlan and Kumail Nanjiani are also on board to return.