Outrage at Afghan minister's prostitution comments
19 June, 2012
KABUL: Rights activists on Monday demanded the sacking of the Afghan justice minister after he suggested women's shelters in the war-torn country were home to "immorality and prostitution".
Justice minister Habibullah Ghaleb told a conference organised by the women's affairs committee of the upper house of parliament on Sunday that foreign-funded rights awareness groups had been encouraging young women to defy their parents.
"Mostly they were encouraging girls, saying, 'If your father says anything bad to you don't listen to him, if your mother says anything to you don't listen to them. There are safe houses for you where you can stay'," the minister said.
"What safe houses? What sort of immorality and prostitution was not happening at those places?"
Significant progress has been made on women's rights since the fall of the Taliban, but many fear those gains are under threat as NATO troops leave and Kabul seeks peace with Islamist insurgents.
Twelve shelters in Afghanistan house around 250 women, most of them victims of domestic violence, according to the Women's Affairs Ministry. They are mostly run by charities and funded largely by international donors.
Leading Afghan women's rights campaigner Wazhman Frogh said Ghaleb's allegations were untrue and urged President Hamid Karzai sack him.
"We are demanding the president fire the minister for his remarks," she said.
The Afghan Women's Network, the country's leading women's rights group, also called for an apology and said the officials involved should be removed.
Sayeda Muzhgan Mustafahi, deputy women affairs minister, said the shelters were inspected every week and there was "no evidence to back up the minister's statement".
The deputy justice minister, Sayed Yousouf Aleem, also distanced herself from Ghaleb's comments.