This paper considers the relevance and applicability of CEDAW in Afghanistan and uses personal interviews with key Afghan and international actors to reflect on the context and framework for understanding the challenges and opportunities that exist for the implementation of CEDAW in contemporary Afghanistan. Starting with an introduction to CEDAW, it traces the Convention’s history in Afghanistan leading to its ratification without reservations in 2003 in order to argue that the application of CEDAW in Afghanistan is threatened by conservative forces who perceive it as an element of international efforts to ‘westernize’ Afghanistan and undermine its unique cultural and religious heritage, particularly vis-à-vis traditional gender roles and sensitive issues around women’s honour and chastity. The paper asserts that closer collaboration with Afghan activists and supporting grassroots efforts to promote women’s rights within a more culturally and religiously sensitive manner is key to succeeding in advancing women’s rights in general and encouraging compliance with CEDAW in particular.

Author Biography

Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims is a lecturer in the Conflict Studies program at Saint Paul University, Ottawa. She is a graduate of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (MSc) and completing her PhD at York University. Her research focuses on the impact of armed violence on women and the role of women in peace building. Her PhD research looks at the ways in which the instrumentalization of women’s rights discourse to justify the war on terror has both helped and impeded gender equality efforts in Afghanistan. Cheshmak worked in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2008. On her first visit, she was providing CEDAW and UNSCR1325 training to Afghan women activists, NGO workers and UN staff in Kabul and Jalalabad. In 2008, she travelled to Afghanistan as part of a scoping mission for a project she was working on with The North South Institute looking at women’s access to justice. Cheshmak regularly speaks about her research and work in Afghanistan at public lectures, conferences and policy gatherings.