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Clinton vows to fight for Afghan women's rights

11 november 2011, 10:23
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Afghan women. ©Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Afghan women. ©Reuters
With a US withdrawal looming, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vowing to do her best to fight for women's rights in Afghanistan and progress made in advancing their status in Afghan society, AFP reports.

"I have said from the very beginning that it's going to be one of my highest priorities to argue for and ensure that we do nothing which sets back the rights and the security of women," Clinton told PBS television in an interview whose transcript was released Wednesday by the State Department.

"I feel that it is part of my responsibility to do all that I can to ensure that whatever the United States is part of in trying to resolve this conflict, we do nothing that undermines the gains that have been made for women."

After ousting the Taliban from power in late 2001, a US-led coalition made a key priority of improving the rights of women who had been reduced to a second class by the former militant rulers.

Western troops are due to leave the country by the end of 2014, amid concerns that some of the hard-fought gains could be reversed.

In a report released last month, Oxfam highlighted "significant gains" for Afghan women in education, political participation and the rule of law over the past decade, but warned of "major challenges" that still lie ahead for the gains now "under increasing threat."

According to fellow relief and development group ActionAid, 72 percent of Afghan women say they have a better life today than during the end of the Taliban regime.

"We have to be clear that the life for many Afghan women is not that much different than it was a hundred years ago, 200 years ago," Clinton said.

The PBS interview was conducted in July for the "War Redefined" episode of the five-part special series "Women, War & Peace." The episode aired late Tuesday.

As with most conflicts that have no clear frontlines, women and children have often been the first victims of the Afghan war.

One of the first conditions Washington asked of the Afghan government's reconciliation efforts with Taliban fighters who agree to lay down their arms is to respect existing laws, including the rights of women and minorities, Clinton noted.

"Now, obviously, that will be easier to do if women are actually involved in the peace jirgas, in the high peace councils, at the international conferences," the top US diplomat added.

"And so I am working very hard to make sure that happens as well."

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