Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced that they have introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would promote the rights and security of Afghanistan’s women and girls after the U.S. drawdown is complete in 2014. The Casey-Ayotte proposal would require the Department of Defense to develop a strategy in coordination with Afghanistan’s government to ensure that the hard-won rights that women and girls have gained since 2001 will not be lost. The protections outlined under the bipartisan measure would include protecting the right of women to serve in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police and to vote. During last year’s NDAA debate Senator Casey, along with former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), proposed and passed into law an amendment requiring a study on the challenges that Afghanistan’s women and girls could face in the coming years. This year’s Casey-Ayotte amendment would require the Defense Department to put the study’s findings into action.
“We must be clear with the Karzai government that the rights of women and girls are not optional,” Senator Casey said. “Having this plan in place will ensure that the rights of women and girls are a key element in our nation’s future relationship with Afghanistan. A strategic plan that protects the basic rights of Afghanistan’s women will allow us to hold Afghanistan’s government accountable to the commitments it’s made since 2001.”
“Afghan women and girls have made significant gains during the past decade – they go to school, work outside the home, and some even serve in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police,” said Senator Ayotte. “We must work with our Afghan partners to protect this fragile progress, which is vital to the future security and stability of Afghanistan and our national security interests there. Our bipartisan amendment would require a plan to protect the security, rights and freedoms of women and girls in post-2014 Afghanistan.”
Civil society organizations are concerned that the progress of the last decade could be reversed after international forces depart, and many Afghan women are concerned that reconciliation with the Taliban could prove disastrous for their rights and security. In recent months, female police officers have been targeted and assassinated. The lower house of the Afghan parliament has also tried to weaken the landmark Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law. Only one percent of the Afghan National Police and 0.3 percent of the Afghan National Army are female, and women serving in those forces face tremendous barriers to full participation and risks to their personal safety.
Summary of Casey-Ayotte Amendment:
The Casey-Ayotte amendment would require the Department of Defense to work with the Afghan National Security Forces to produce a strategy to promote the security of Afghan women and girls during the transition process. Specifically, it would:
- Help ensure the adequate staffing of polling stations by female officers. This amendment would emphasize the need for a recruitment and training program for female searchers and security officers to staff voting stations during the April 2014 elections, including an authorization to utilize up to $5 million in support of this program.
- Increase the awareness and responsiveness among Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel regarding the unique challenges women confront when serving in those forces. This includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of existing training for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) on this issue; a plan to increase the number of female security officers, including those serving in Family Response United, specifically trained to address cases of gender- based violence; and a plan to develop accountability mechanisms for ANA and ANP personnel who violate codes of conduct related to the human rights of women and girls.
- Focus on improving the recruitment and retention of women in the Afghan National Security Forces. The bill would require the Secretary of Defense, working with the International Security Assistance Force and NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan, to assist the Government of Afghanistan in their development and implementation of a strategy in cooperation with the Afghan Ministries of Defense and Interior to increase the number of female members of the ANSF. This would include authorization for use of $15 million in Afghan Security Forces Funds in support of the provision of appropriate equipment for female security and police forces; modification of facilities to allow for female participation; and training to include literacy training for women recruits and training for their male counterparts.