The problem with the Taliban peace talks is not women, it’s their absence

Although women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict, their experiences and instrumental contribution to peace are often overlooked

Share
Related Topics

Women must be present! So said the parliamentary commission on banking standards, which has today called for a better gender balance at the heart of investment banks in order to prevent future economic crises caused by risk-obsessed male-dominated trading floors.

Food for thought, coming the day after talks between the Taliban and the US were announced – talks where the crucial issue of women’s rights is said to be on the agenda, but will any women be on the invite list?

The stated aim of the talks: ‘Peace and reconciliation’, would undoubtedly be a preferable state for Afghanistan’s war-battered citizens after decades of conflict, but what is the scope of these peace negotiations, and what compromises are being offered? Indeed, who is being compromised?

Just yesterday a bomb detonated near the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission injuring 30 and killing three. Then overnight Taliban insurgents launched a deadly ambush on an American convoy killing four. Peace is urgently needed. However it appears the talks may have stalled before they started with the Afghan government threatening, this morning, to boycott. Whether the refusal to sit down at the table is permanent, or just a delay to the schedule, it remains unclear whether a political peace deal hammered out in Qatar by the Taliban, US and Afghan officials will ever be fully representative of the interests of all Afghans.

Amnesty has been campaigning for the UK government, as a member of NATO and diplomatic ally of the Afghanistan government, to do all in its power to support Afghan women in their fight to have their rights protected and promoted throughout the peace process. The campaign has received widespread parliamentary backing, with scores of MPs pledging their support and a number of select committee reports emphasising the importance of women’s rights to sustainable peace.

This last point is important because although women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict, their experiences and instrumental contribution to peace are often overlooked. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 dictates that women’s experience of conflict (being different to that of men) and their participation in post-conflict processes is essential to ensuring sustainable peace. Women’s participation is not only fair and right (there can be no justification for excluding 50% of the population from decision making which will affect their lives as much as those of men), it is advantageous.

Nevertheless, women have been strikingly absent from peace negotiations worldwide. The UN Women’s review of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 revealed that only four per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators and nine per cent of negotiators were women. However when women have been involved, they have achieved striking successes, not only in contributing a vital perspective to the analysis of conflict, but also through providing effective strategies for peace building.

In Afghanistan women make up 27% of MPs (which, by the way, is more than in the UK) thanks to quotas ensured through the Constitution. But of the 70 member High Peace Council charged with negotiating peace, only nine are women. In fact Afghan women’s organisations have consistently voiced concerns that women have been marginalised in key decision-making processes. When I was in Afghanistan last year, Afghan women told me personally of their fear that without meaningful representation in the peace negotiations the priority concerns of women and girls will not be fully reflected in any peace agreement and, as a result, their rights will be traded away.

This fear could be well founded given that the US has reportedly dropped a number of pre-conditions to peace talks and will now only “seek a commitment…[to] recognise women’s rights”. But the rights of Afghan women do not belong to the US any more than they do to the Taliban and are not theirs to negotiate with or trade away.

Afghan women have a right under international law, including the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Security Council Resolution 1325, to participate in decision-making processes which will affect their lives. Moreover their experience and understanding, not just of the conflict but of all aspects of Afghan life, will be invaluable in achieving a genuine and sustainable peace for all Afghans.

When parties gather in Qatar to determine the legacy of this costly and protracted conflict, it is vital that women’s rights are on the table, but vital too that women are sitting at it.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
 

Thatcher as a role model for young women? It may not be as desperate as you would think

Rosie Millard
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road