A video of a female employee being sexually exploited by an Afghan government official has surfaced online and sent shockwaves across the country.
This video is a daring accusation in a conservative society where sexual harassment is rarely discussed in public.
Government institutions have received huge sums of foreign aid for empowering women but they seem to do little when it comes to fighting harassment.
SU teachers defamed by harassment charges
The video shows an air force colonel apparently having sexual intercourse with an unidentifiable woman who recorded the whole encounter secretly before giving the footage to a colleague.
Many co-workers of the colonel confirmed that he pressured the woman for sex when she approached him for a promotion.
“I know he has done this many times [with other women]” said one pilot, on the condition of anonymity. “He is known to line up girls in his office and taunt them with derogatory jokes,” added another pilot.
The allegations are being investigated by the Ministry of Defence whereas the woman did not respond to requests for comment.
Since 2001, women participation has only increased by 3.1 per cent in the Afghan labour force. Harassment is considered one of the main obstacles when boosting a female workforce.
“For Afghan women, it’s a double-edged sword,” said Noorjahan Akbar, a US-based activist. “If you speak out, people say, ‘see I told you we shouldn’t let women work’. And if you don’t, people say, ‘of course it will continue if you don’t speak out to support other women’.”
“In some ministries, being asked for sexual favours in return for a job or promotion is like a prerequisite,” said one woman who has worked in various government institutions for years. “It is very hard to get appointed unless you have backing,” she said. “If you don’t have powerful relatives, you will have to sleep with someone powerful.”
“If you turn them down, they badmouth you,” she said, recounting a male colleague interrupting a suggestive conversation between women at the office by exclaiming: “Why don’t you talk to me about it? Or better yet, come show me.”
After the female official refused, the man went to their boss and claimed she drank in public – an offence in Afghanistan. “They don’t even give girls the chance to explain themselves,” Akbar said.
Govt vows to protect women from harassment
Anti-harassment activism is non-existing in Afghanistan as it is dangerous. Kubra Khademi, a young artist who protested against harassment received so many death threats that she fled the country.
“If a member of parliament, who is abusing a woman, is prosecuted in public, others wouldn’t dare,” said Selay Ghaffar, another activist.
However, the Afghan government has taken steps to empower women which includes a bill to eliminate violence against women but it was not passed by parliament.
This article originally appeared on The Guardian
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