UK & World News
Afghanistan Police Force Needs More Women
Women make up less than 1% of Afghanistan's police force and now there is an urgent call for more to join to reduce violence against females and improve their safety.
A new report by UK charity Oxfam says cases of violence against women in the country rose by 25% in 2011-2012 alone.
But with just one female police officer for every 10,000 women in the population, millions will never see one in their community or be able to report a crime to one.
Panjshir and Nuristan provinces have no women officers at all.
The report, Women and the Afghan Police, insists a law enforcement agency that respects and protects females is crucial for progress.
Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, violence against women is on the increase and Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that 87% of Afghan women have experienced some form of violence and says nearly 15% of honour killings and sexual assaults carried out against women in the last two years were by the police.
"Afghan women need Afghan policewomen to protect them. Violence against women is endemic but without female police officers, Afghan women are reluctant to report crimes and get the justice they desperately need," said Oxfam's policy and advocacy advisor, Elizabeth Cameron.
With full transition to Afghan security forces looming, the charity insists more must be done to ensure that Afghan women have access to, and the means to become an integral part of, the security forces.
Women who join the Afghan police face enormous danger and challenges, both from inside and in surrounding communities.
They face opposition, violence and even death from their own families who do not view policing as a respectable job for women, warns Oxfam.
The charity says policewomen suffer sexual harassment and assault from colleagues and superiors, with requests for sexual favours in return for promotion reported in some provinces.
They have few career prospects or opportunities to work with victims of crime and sexual abuse - areas where they could make the most impact in their communities.
Nadia, one of the 22 policewomen in Afghanistan's remote province of Kunduz, which has a population of over 820,000, confirmed the report's findings.
"When I became a policewoman, I faced a lot of difficulties because our society does not accept women police," she explained.
"They haven't realised the value of a policewoman and how she can be of importance in the society, especially towards other women. I have even heard educated people say that whoever works in the police is 'loose', I was crushed to hear this, but I am compelled to continue to work.
"The same way as a society needs women doctors, it needs women police."