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Washington DC- Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement on women’s rights in Afghanistan:

“I am very concerned about the recent attempts to erode women’s rights and political representation in Afghanistan, especially with reports of renewed efforts to conduct political negotiations with Taliban. Since 2004, Afghanistan’s constitution has protected women and ensured they can participate in the political process. In a recent draft of a new electoral law, these protections were removed by eliminating the quotas that ensure women are represented in national and local government. This move dangerously undermines the gains made by women in the political arena in the past decade. I am also disappointed to hear that this decision was not made collaboratively; women parliamentarians have fought hard for the right to participate in their government and should not be excluded from deliberations about this law. 

Over the past decade, Afghan women have assumed seats in Parliament, girls have returned to school, and women’s rights have become part of the public dialogue.  Empowered women can have an immensely positive impact on their communities and can also dissuade young men from turning to militancy. Afghan women must be able to freely and safely participate in the 2014 elections, as these elections are crucial to Afghanistan’s future security and stability. In May, I introduced S.Res.151, which urges the Afghan government to ensure that women can safely participate in the elections. I also strongly urge the Afghan parliament to restore protections for women in the draft law and agree to an electoral code that protects the universal rights of all Afghans.

If the international community and Afghan government enter into talks with the Taliban, the U.S. must send a clear and unequivocal message that women’s rights are not a bargaining chip that can be negotiated away.  The women and girls of Afghanistan should be fully empowered to participate in any conversation that charts the course of Afghanistan’s future.”