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Malala Yousafzai Said To Be Improving In British Hospital, While A Young Afghan Woman Is Beheaded Fo
October 18, 2012
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More encouraging news today about Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban.

A Pakistani official says she's been doing better since she was brought to England for specialized care and has been moving her arms and legs.

The official spoke anonymously because he hadn't been cleared to talk on the record, but he said he had spoken to doctors about Malala's condition.

Meantime, the hospital in Britain where Malala is being treated released a statement saying she's in "stable condition and continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care."

It didn't give any other details, and it's not clear what this means as far as her long term recovery.

Malala was coming home from school in Pakistan last week, when two members of the Taliban got on the bus she was on and one of them shot her. Doctors in Pakistan removed a bullet from her neck.

The Taliban has threatened to go after her again, because she promotes "western thinking" and fights for the rights of girls to go to school.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the attack on Malala, there's news today of a young woman who's been killed in Afghanistan, in Herat province.

20-year-old Mahgul was beheaded after she refused to become a prostitute for her in-laws. Police say they have arrested "her mother-in-law, father-in-law, her husband and the man who killed her."

Police say she was married to her husband four months ago, and that her mother-in-law had tried to force her to become a prostitute several times.

The suspect, who allegedly killed Mahgul, confessed publicly in front of journalists and TV cameras. He said he was forced to kill her by his aunt (her mother-in-law).

He said "My uncle's wife told me I should kill this person. I said I couldn't kill her. She told me, 'If you can't kill her, then help me do it.' She forced me and I helped her."

He went on to say "I asked her why... She said, 'I hate her because she doesn't listen to me.'"

Amnesty International condemned the killing.

"The tragic fate of Mahgul is one more incident that highlights the violent atmosphere that women and girls face in Afghanistan and the region," said Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA executive director.

as-malala-yousafzai-continues-to-improve-a-young-afghan-woman-is-beheaded-for-refusing-to-become-a-prostitute-feature2.jpg Last year, Afghanistan was named the most dangerous country for women according to a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Foundation surveyed 213 experts, looking at problems involving sexual violence, trafficking and other threats to women.

It ranked these five countries as the worst:

1. Afghanistan
2. Democratic Republic of Congo
3. Pakistan
4. India
5. Somalia

The human rights commission in western Afghanistan (which is backed by the government) says violence against women has increased dramatically recently.

Abdul Qader Rahimi is the commission's regional director. He told the AFP news agency "So far this year we have registered 100 cases of violence against women in the western region." He also pointed out many cases go unreported.

The Department of Women's Affairs in Herat says the number is much higher. It has documented more than 700 cases in the past year, involving domestic abuse, torture, murder, physical mutilation, and women who have committed suicide.

From April to July of this year, Afghanistan's independent human rights commission recorded 52 murders of girls and women.

42 of those were honour killings, compared to 20 murders for all of last year.

as-malala-yousafzai-continues-to-improve-a-young-afghan-woman-is-beheaded-for-refusing-to-become-a-prostitute-feature3.jpg In July, UN Women highlighted two cases that sparked an international outcry - the torture and rape of a young woman by Afghan Local Police, and the public execution of a young woman for alleged adultery.

In a statement, UN Women said "Such brutality is intolerable and UN Women calls upon the Afghan government to act with urgency to respond to these crimes, bringing the perpetrators to justice, and to end a culture of impunity and create a culture of zero tolerance of violence and discrimination against women and girls."

Activists say President Hamid Karzai's government is getting softer on women's rights, as it looks to negotiate peace with the Taliban - especially with U.S. troops set to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014.

One Afghan female lawmaker told Reuters "Karzai has certainly changed, and women's issues are no longer a priority for him."

A spokesperson for Karzai said "Unfortunate incidents against women do occur. The government is doing what it can."

Since the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, women have won back basic rights in voting, education, and employment.

But activists say domestic abuse is still routine, arranged marriages are the norm, and female suicide rates are among the highest in the world.

Several years ago, the PBS program 'Global Voices' aired a documentary called 'Afghanistan Unveiled.'

It was shot by the first-ever team of women video journalists trained in Afghanistan. It looks at the effects of the Taliban rule and the U.S. led invastion on Afghan women.

Here's the trailer.

Here's a couple of other documentaries that explore women's rights in Afghanistan.

One is called 'Losing Hope: Women In Afghanistan' which was made about six years after the fall of the Taliban.

The other is called 'Beneath The Veil' from the British investigative program 'Dispatches' on Channel 4. It was made in 2001, while the Taliban were still in power.

One women's rights activist, Lailama Rahimi, recently told Radio Free Europe that many women almost never receive justice.

Even if their cases go to trial, she says, the majority of the suspects are acquitted, have their charges reduced, or get a short sentence.

And she says female victims can end up being accused of "moral crimes" for making 'private matters' public.

"All the concerns we have today, we have had for a long time. The difficulties we [women] face are due to [Afghanistan's] tribal culture," Rahimi says. "This [failure by the authorities] is why we are seeing this violence against women continue."

Earlier this year, in its annual report, Human Rights Watch pointed out "Afghanistan at present has 14 shelters, each able to house an average of around 20 to 25 women and their children."

"This does not meet even a small fraction of the need in a country where an estimated 70 to 80 percent of marriages are forced and 87 percent of women face at least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage in their lifetimes," the report said.

The U.S. State Department has condemned the beheading in Herat.

It also says, in spite of the violence, progress is being made - with the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan as an example.

That program has helped create shelters, referral centres and transit houses for women who have suffered abuse or feel threatened.

The U.S. also says it is training prosecutors in Afghanistan in cases of violence against women.

as-malala-yousafzai-continues-to-improve-a-young-afghan-woman-is-beheaded-for-refusing-to-become-a-prostitute-feature4.jpg "It's something that we are all committed to, that the Afghan Government and President Karzai is committed to. But it's a long road, and we're going to have to keep working on it," said spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

"As we've said, even as we wind down the combat mission, our civilian programs are going to continue in Afghanistan," she said.

Another organization that's trying to change things is the Afghan Women's Mission. Its director Sonali Kolhatkar told the Huffington Post...

"When our troops entered Afghanistan, the first thing we did was decide to work with the most misogynist elements of Afghanistan, war lords who had a history of abusing women, and who had a history of being very Taliban-like in their ideology."

In a report last December, another organization the Afghan Women's Network pointed out the positives for women...

"Over 4 million young girls are attending schools and higher education institutes today. 17% of civil servants across the country are women, who actively contribute to national reconstruction and economic development."

"The women who hold over 25% of seats in parliament daily assert the need for accountability and transparency mechanisms in a reformed governance structure and hundreds of women organizations are striving to end violence and discrimination against women and girls in the most remote valleys of the country."

A local Afghan woman named Manizha Naderi also told the Huffington Post "Before 9-11, Afghanistan was a land of nothing... Now when you come to Afghanistan we have thousands of schools, we have a banking system, we have women in parliament... the government is working pretty well."

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