In Afghanistan, Women's Progress in Freefall As US exits, signs of trouble emerge: Human Rights Watch researcher By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Dec 11, 2013 2:30 PM CST 18 comments Comments An Afghan woman waits to have her picture taken to register to vote. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) (Newser) – Women's rights have come a long way in Afghanistan over the last decade, but a Human Rights Watch researcher sees disturbing signs that the bad old days are poised to return as the US military exits. Violence against women has spiked in the last year, conservative lawmakers want to bring back stoning as punishment for adultery and abolish a minimum marrying age, and hundreds of women and girls are imprisoned for the "crime" of fleeing forced marriages or domestic violence, writes Heather Barr in the New York Times. And then there's the "barbaric practice of virginity tests," in which females arrested on "morality" charges (or sometimes merely theft charges) must undergo a vaginal exam by government doctors who conclude whether she is a virgin. The tests aren't just "horrific," they're wildly inaccurate. The US and other countries pledge to keep funding women's services after international troops leave, but they have to back that up with action. "Support for the Afghan government and its security must depend on continued progress for Afghan women," writes Barr. "Anything less would be a betrayal." Click for her full column.