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2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 364 E/121

(2001/C 364 E/133) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1469/01

by Guido Podestà (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(17 May 2001)

Subject: Women and society in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan the Taleban introduced an ultra-fundamentalist regime based on religious fundamentalism

and sex discrimination.

The civil war, which has been raging in the country for years, has created more than 5 million refugees,
more than one million disabled people and widespread poverty.

Women are in a majority in a country which has more than 700 000 widows. Their families live in abject
poverty made worse by the edicts of the Taleban forbidding women to work outside the home.

The ban on even elementary education for women is aggravating the already high level incidence of
illiteracy and subjugation.

Whilst women are certainly those most affected by restrictions which are tantamount to a continual
violation of human rights, the general state of civil society is also extremely bad.

What steps will the Commission take to offer support to the population oppressed by the present regime?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(23 July 2001)

The Union’s objectives in Afghanistan, which the Commission shares are set out in its latest Common
Position on Afghanistan of 22 January 2001 (1). They are: to bring about a lasting peace; to promote
stability and development; to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights,
including the rights of women and children; to provide effective humanitarian aid; to reinforce the fight
against illegal drugs and terrorism; to assist peace building activities; and to support programmes, by non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) and international aid agencies, for Afghan refugees in neighbouring

The Union is active in all of these areas, although the emphasis depends on the circumstances prevailing at
any given time. The Union supports peace initiatives, carries out diplomatic initiatives in its own right,
forcefully bringing its views on the political, humanitarian and human rights situations in Afghanistan to
the attention of the relevant factions in the country and in neighbouring countries.

With regard to activities carried out by the Community specifically targeted at women, it should be noted
that all Community humanitarian aid projects in Afghanistan, which are in implementation in all areas of
the country, are in favour of vulnerable groups and populations. Women and widows are included
amongst these vulnerable groups and benefit from both specific projects as well as gender specific
components of health projects, employment projects, particularly medical projects, but also in food for
work and shelter projects and programmes.

It is important to note also that the situation of women in Afghanistan differs from region to region in
those parts of the country under the control of the Taliban. Local political and tribal leadership attitudes
and the determination of women themselves can play a significant role in improving the conditions of
women and girls in society.

(1) OJ L 21, 23.1.2001.