Kamis, 17 September 2020

Afghanistan allows mothers' names on birth certificates in 'significant' milestone for women's rights - ABC News

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed an amendment allowing mothers' names to be included on their children's birth certificates, after a three-year campaign by women's rights activists.

Using the hashtag #WhereIsMyName, campaigners pushed for the right of women to be named on official documents including children's birth certificates, which previously named only the father.

"I feel like a bird in a cage whose door has just been opened and it can achieve its dream of flying in the sky," said activist Sonia Ahmadi, who joined the campaign when it began in 2017.

"My feeling of happiness may seem ridiculous for women in other countries, but when we live in a society where women are physically and spiritually excluded, achieving such basic rights is a big and difficult task."

A young woman wears glasses and a colourful headscarf.
Sonia Ahmadi has been pushing for change through the #WhereIsMyName campaign.(Supplied: Sonia Ahmadi)

#WhereIsMyName campaigners are fighting an ingrained Afghan tradition that states using a woman's name in public brings shame on the family.

Instead, women are publicly referred to by the name of their closest male relatives.

Their own names are generally not present on documents, on their wedding invitations or even on their own gravestones.

The Afghan cabinet's legal affairs committee said the move was a big step forward.

"The decision to include the mother's name in the ID card is a big step towards gender equality and the realisation of women's rights," the committee said in a statement.

The movement, which began in the city of Herat but has since expanded worldwide, has faced opposition in the conservative and patriarchal Muslim country.

During a joint press conference with local authorities and the founders of the movement, Herat Governor Wahid Qattali said he feared there would be resistance to the change.

A man and women sit next to each other while speaking at a press conference.
#WhereIsMyName founder Laleh Osmany has been supported by Herat Governor Wahid Qattali.(ABC News: Omid Sobhani)

But Mr Qattali showed his full support for the move, even asking local journalists to include his own mother's name, Zahida, in their reports.

"I did nothing for my mother in the past. But I want to grant my Mother this gift to not hide her identity anymore."

Women seen as property

Afghan women attend a conference on violence against women in Herat.
Unable to use their names on documentation, many legal rights of Afghani women "don't exist".(Reuters: Morteza Nikoubazl)

Heather Barr, co-director of Human Rights Watch's women's rights division, said while there was still a long way to go, this move forward was "super significant".

"It's one small piece of a much larger puzzle of ways in which women's rights are still systemically violated including by a discriminatory legal system," she said.

"But it's really significant because as long as women's names don't appear on identification cards, don't appear in public records, their identities really don't exist, and a lot of their legal rights don't exist."

Ms Barr said until now, basic things — like school registration, obtaining health care or a passport for their children or travelling with them — have been impossible for Afghan mothers to do without the father present.

A poster shows a girl staring through a sea of burkas with the words, "We are not what others define us".
Through a poster widely circulated on social media, Afghan women urge, 'Call me by my name'.(Supplied)

"It's a step toward changing a society in which throughout your life you're really seen, first, as the property of your father and then as the property of your husband and then actually as the property of your son," Ms Barr told the ABC.

"It's really a testament to their determination that it's gotten as far as it has."

Rohina Shahabi, a spokeswoman for National Statistics and Information of Afghanistan (NSIA), said once implemented, the inclusion of a mother's name along with the father's will be mandatory.

But she said implementing the changes would take time.

"We have to receive an official order to start working on the change," Ms Shahabi told the ABC.

"It is too early to say how long it will take. Our team must look into our facilities and our practical capacity and then they will be able to say how long."

But Ms Shahabi said the changes would be made as soon as possible.

Fears Taliban peace talks could undo progress

A Taliban wearing a turban and traditional dress shakes hands with a US representatives wearing a suit.
US-brokered peace talks with the Taliban have been taking place in Doha.(AP: Hussein Sayed)

But the initiative has already faced opposition.

Last week, Mawlawi Qalam Uddin, the former head of the moral police during the Taliban era, called the change a "Western plan".

"This plan has come from America and Europe. Nobody can force this plan on the people of Afghanistan," he told a press conference in Kabul.

Ms Barr said although "there's nothing in Islam" to suggest a women's name should not be used and it is not the practice of other Islamic governments, it could still be framed as going against Islam.

"This is going to face a lot of pushback certainly from the Taliban, but also just from conservative and traditional people in women's families — who could be men but could also be women — who are resistant to change," she said.

As Afghan peace talks between the Government and the Taliban — which still controls more than half of the country — slowly move forward, women fear that the limited number of rights they have gained since the fall of the Taliban could be negotiated away.

"Of course they want peace, every Afghan you meet wants peace after 40 years of war," Ms Barr said.

During their five-year rule of Afghanistan, the Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law, and Afghan women were obliged to cover their faces and could not study, work or leave the house without a male relative.

During peace talks, the group has said it would allow women to be educated and employed, but within the limits of Islamic law and Afghan culture.

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2020-09-17 20:22:00Z

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