Female Afghan police officers are routinely enduring sexually harassment and worse from male colleagues on the force.
“Workplace sexual harassment is a serious problem in the public and private sectors in Afghanistan, and female police officers are frequently the targets of harassment and assault,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Thursday. “In recent years, there have been numerous media reports of rape of female police officers by male colleagues.”
In particular, HRW said, better and more secure bathrooms are needed given that some women officers have been attacked even in such a private locale.
“Those facilities that women do have access to often have peepholes or doors, which don’t lock," an international advisor told HRW. "Women have to go [to the toilets] in pairs. Toilets are a site of harassment."
In addition, three orders since last year to install safe and separate facilities in police stations for female officers have not been implemented despite government promises.
“The Afghan government’s failure to provide female police officers with safe, secure facilities makes them more vulnerable to abuse,” Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, said in a statement. “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.”
To be serious, the problem is indicative of a wider problem in Afghan society, as HRW pointed out, and the low numbers of female police officers also means that civilian Afghan women have few places to turn when trying to seek justice.
Currently, there are only about 1,500 women on the 160,000-person Afghan police force, AFP reports.
“Harassment and abuse is an everyday experience for many Afghan women,” Adams said in the statement. “Without the consistent presence of female police officers across the country, legal protections for women will remain an unfulfilled promise.”
Afghanistan is preparing for the scheduled 2014 handover of its security from the Americans to the Afghans.