Women at risk while Afghan police force remains only one per cent female, says Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 10 Sep 2013

Australian aid to Afghanistan should be better targeted to increasing the number of women in the Afghan police force, with a new Oxfam report showing women make up just one per cent of Afghan police. 

With the clock ticking for Afghanistan as it nears the 2014 withdrawal of international forces, the report, Women and the Afghan Police, says more women are urgently needed in the Afghan police force to reduce violence against women and ensure the safety of all Afghans.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Australia’s support to Afghanistan must have a greater focus on promoting the recruitment, training and retention of more Afghan policewomen.

“Afghan women need Afghan policewomen to protect them. With just one female police officer for every 10,000 women, millions of Afghan women will never see a female police officer in their communities, let alone be able to report a crime to one,” Dr Szoke said.

“Violence against women is endemic but without female police officers, Afghan women are reluctant to report crimes and get the justice they desperately need.”

Dr Szoke said with less than 18 months until the 2014 international withdrawal, recent improvements in women’s rights were in serious jeopardy if the rule of law and the role of the Afghan police force were not improved.

Australia currently has 28 police officers in Afghanistan and is providing significant levels of overseas aid to the country focused on police reform, but out of the more than 3000 police Australia has trained in the country, only a handful were women.

Oxfam Australia is urging the Australian Government to make this support conditional on increased female police recruitment efforts, and to ensure all Australian Federal Police training and mentoring programs in Afghanistan prioritise female recruitment.

Dr Szoke said it was important for Australia to promote female policing in an environment where Afghan female police face enormous stigma and challenges. “Afghan policewomen are risking their lives to serve their communities. They face opposition, violence and even death from communities who do not view policing as a respectable job for women, as well as sexual harassment and assault from colleagues and superiors

“Effective policewomen, safe in their jobs, are a critical factor in empowering women in Afghanistan, which is an important part of working towards securing a strong and stable future for the country.”

The Women and the Afghan Police report is available here. Broadcast quality footage and photos are available. For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or cheecheel@oxfam.org.au