Afghan Elections a Setback for Women

Low female turnout could mean leaders even less responsive to women

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Aug 24, 2009 10:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – For women, Afghanistan's recent elections appear to have been more of a setback than a step forward. Early reports strongly suggest that voter turnout fell more sharply for women than for men in last week's polls. Election observers blame Taliban attacks, a dearth of female election workers, and the closure of at least 650 polling stations for women.

Some worry the result could be a new government that pays even less attention to women's concerns in a country where cultural conservatism already restricts female participation in public life. "The rockets started coming from the early morning and, until night, the rockets still came," said a woman who didn’t vote. "The government hasn't done anything for women, and there were a lot of security problems. That's why I didn't cast my vote."

Afghan women voters line up to cast their ballots at a mosque made into a polling station in Kabul on Thursday Aug. 20, 2009.
Afghan women voters line up to cast their ballots at a mosque made into a polling station in Kabul on Thursday Aug. 20, 2009.   (David Guttenfelder)
Two women await their turns at a polling center in Herat, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. Afghans head to the polls to elect the new president for the second time in the country's history.
Two women await their turns at a polling center in Herat, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. Afghans head to the polls to elect the new president for the second time in the country's history.   (Saurabh Das)
Afghan women show their cards after casting their votes at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009.
Afghan women show their cards after casting their votes at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009.   (Farzana Wahidy)
Afghan women voters line up to cast their ballots at a polling station in Kabul Thursday Aug. 20, 2009.
Afghan women voters line up to cast their ballots at a polling station in Kabul Thursday Aug. 20, 2009.   (Rafiq Maqbool)
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