Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
February 17, 2011  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer, Cardin and Shaheen Call on President Karzai to Retract Troubling Proposal for Afghan Women's Shelters  

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai calling on the Afghan Government to reconsider a troubling proposal regarding the administration of Afghan women’s shelters.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

February 17, 2011

His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Dear President Karzai:

We write to express our profound alarm over reports that the Government of Afghanistan has composed a draft regulation that would remove non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the administration of a network of 14 women’s shelters throughout Afghanistan and impose strict criteria for admission. We believe this would be a grave mistake, reversing important gains made on women’s basic rights and protections since the end of Taliban rule, and urge your government to reconsider.

According to available information and perhaps most troubling, the regulation proposes that every admittance to a shelter be reviewed and endorsed by a panel of several government representatives but only one civil society representative. This could lead to the delay or denial of admittance for highly vulnerable victims. We understand the Government of Afghanistan’s need to monitor the shelters, but it is imperative that civil society groups be allowed autonomy in their day-to-day operation.

In addition, we understand that the proposed regulation could deny entry to women with mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), women who are victims of human trafficking, and suspected criminals. This is particularly shocking, given that running away is considered a moral “crime” in Afghanistan. In our country, as in yours, women and girls fleeing an abusive environment or situation need to feel confident that they will not be turned away at the very place they are seeking refuge. The consequences for those denied admittance could be catastrophic.

The United States has worked tirelessly and sacrificed enormously in the hope of seeing the emergence of a viable and secure Afghan state. But as the Obama Administration has said, “it is a simple fact that no country can prosper if half its citizens are left behind…Women’s empowerment is inextricably linked to security, economic opportunity, effective governance, and social development.” As such, we urge you to do what is right, ensuring that Afghan women and girls have every opportunity to succeed and that the most vulnerable members of your society are protected.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to your response.


Barbara Boxer, United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin, United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen, United States Senator