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A United Nations agency in Afghanistan plans to stop publishing photographs on its website to highlight the plight of Afghan women ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, a UN official said on Sunday.
The move aims to bring attention to the fear many Afghan women have of the potential consequences of appearing in public or having their photographs published, said Rob Few, chief of communications for the UN Development Program in Kabul.
Photographs already on the UNDP’s Afghanistan website would be blacked out starting on Sunday, and replaced with the hashtag #WhereAreTheWomen, Few said.
Original captions would remain, so visitors to the site know what they are missing, and no new photographs would be posted, he said. The campaign will last about a week, he added.
In conservative Afghanistan, women are often subject to abuse, forced into arranged marriages, and even traded to settle disputes. Domestic violence is endemic.
High-profile women have been murdered. As a result, few women work outside the home or are active in public life, despite constitutional guarantees of their safety.
Few said the UNDP’s decision came after an Afghan woman helped by the agency to escape an abusive forced marriage said she was too afraid to have her photo published alongside a report about her experience.
"Walk down any street, or into any government office, or into any hospital, police station, business or university, and you have to ask yourself, ‘Where are the women?’ Few said.
"We’ve come a long way since 2001, but we need to do more to make women safer and to allow them to take part in economic and public life."
As the Afghan government moves toward a dialogue with the Taliban to end the war, now in its 15th year, many women fear that hard-won legal rights will be sacrificed for peace.