AFGHAN women live in constant fear of abduction, rape and forced marriage and the government is doing little to address their plight, Amnesty International reports today.
Afghan Women's Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Nooria Haqnagar acknowledged that abuse was still rife, three-and-a-half years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime.
"In some remote areas, men deal with women like animals," she said.
Amnesty called on the administration of US-backed President Hamid Karzai and foreign governments to do more to improve the lives of women.
"Throughout the country, few women are exempt from violence or safe from the threat of it," the British-based human rights organisation said in the report, which is entitled Afghanistan: Women under attack.
It said that women are traded like commodities to settle debts and disputes and that some women commit suicide to escape being forced into unwanted marriages.
"Afghanistan is in the process of reconstruction after many years of conflict, but hundreds of women and girls continue to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, armed individuals," the report said.
"Societal codes, invoked in the name of tradition and religion, are used as justification for denying women the ability to enjoy their fundamental rights.
"Perceived transgressions of such codes have led to the imprisonment and even killing of some women," it added.
"Some authorities treat women who run away to escape these situations as criminals and imprison them."
The report urged the government to publicly condemn all violence against women and to reform the justice system so that it is better equipped to protect women's rights.
Ms Haqnagar said that the government was working to improve the lives of women, but she admitted that the number of abuse cases reported to authorities had increased in recent months.
She said that, on average, 10 women lodge complaints every day.
"In Herat province, women are burning themselves to escape abuse," she said. "They must have huge problems to take such violent measures against themselves."
Ms Haqnagar, who is also the director of her ministry's awareness and education department, said that improvements had been made for women in the cities, where the central government's authority is strongest, but, in remote rural areas where it has little control, few gains had been made.
She said that teams from her ministry had been dispatched to 10 provinces to raise awareness of women's rights, adding: "We are trying our best to find solutions to these problems."
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