Afghanistan says it will double the number of female police officers by 2024, as the country grapples with a spate of attacks against working women
By Shadi Khan Saif
Kabul, March 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Afghanistan has said it will more than double the number of female officers in its police force by 2024, even as the country grapples with a violent backlash against working women.
Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi said Afghanistan needed more female police to address the needs of women and girls, as he pledged to increase the number of women in the force to 10,000.
The announcement came against a backdrop of targeted attacks on officials and prominent women around the country as the government negotiates a power-sharing deal with the Taliban, the Islamist group that banned girls from going to school.
Three women journalists were gunned down in the eastern city of Jalalabad just hours after Andarabi made his announcement at a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, underscoring the scale of the risks women workers face.
One policewoman in Jalalabad said the work was becoming increasingly dangerous.
"We are faced with death threats every moment. We don't know when and who would attack us," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on condition of anonymity.
Gul Afroz Ebtekar, one of Afghanistan's most senior policewomen, acknowledged the dangers, but said the reputation of the force had improved dramatically since she joined over a decade ago.
"At the beginning it was unimaginable, people generally believed only the illiterate and least capable individual end up serving in the ranks of police," said the 33-year-old.
"With time, that has changed and improved a lot thanks to focused efforts to address issues of disrespect, sexual abuse and discrimination against female in the ranks of police.
"More and more educated girls even from well-off and respected families are entering police and are having equal pay and perks," she added.
Most female officers are deployed at airports and border crossings, with others used for domestic crimes involving women.
Currently there are only about 4,000 female officers in the force, or one for every 5,000 women in the country of nearly 40 million.
"Half of the total population of our country is made up of women and girls, therefore there is a need to address their issues and deliver services to them by increasing the number of female police officers," said Andarabi.
(Reporting by Shadi Khan Saif, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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