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U.N. decries 'low, uneven' use of law protecting Afghan women

An Afghan woman wearing a burqa holds her child as she walks along a street on the outskirts of Kabul May 13, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan woman wearing a burqa holds her child as she walks along a street on the outskirts of Kabul May 13, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Dylan Welch

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan is failing to use a law designed to protect women from violence in a country regularly voted one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The plight of women in Afghanistan captured the world's attention during the 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban when women were not allowed to leave their houses without a male relative, girls were barred from school and adulterers were shot or stoned to death.

Women have since won back rights to education and work, but there are fears these freedoms are shrinking as NATO-led forces prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year.

The United Nations examined the Elimination of Violence Against Women law, enacted as a presidential decree in 2009 and passed by parliament earlier this year.

"The landmark law ... was a huge achievement for all Afghans, but implementation has been slow and uneven," U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a report released on Sunday.

There had been an increase in reporting violence against women but a failure to prosecute, said the head of the U.N. human rights office in Afghanistan, Georgette Gagnon.

Registration of reports of violence had risen 28 per cent over the year, but use of the law had increased by only two per cent.

"This suggests that use of the law to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women remains low," she said.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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