Afghanistan needs more policewomen to deter rising crimes against women

KABUL (AFP) - Women make up only one per cent of Afghanistan's police force and as a result women are reluctant to seek justice for rising levels of violence, international aid agency Oxfam said on Tuesday.

There is an average of one female police officer for every 10,000 women in Afghanistan, where reports of violence against women rose by 25 per cent in 2011-2012, Oxfam said in a report.

Women who join the police face huge challenges, both inside and outside the force, such as violence, sexual harassment and lack of equal treatment to their male colleagues, it said.

"Policewomen often lack basic items, such as uniforms, which male colleagues receive. Many find themselves performing menial tasks (such as making tea)," the report said.

Many receive little or no training and are rarely able to engage in core police functions such as investigating crimes or carrying out arrests, it added.

"We are not treated the same as the men. Even when we are at the same rank as the men, it is us that the commander asks to make tea or do typing," a female officer was quoted as saying.

Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi admitted that there were problems involving women in the force, but said that the government was determined to fight them and recruit more female officers.

"Many women are not interested because it is a difficult task. We are involved in fighting terrorism from day to day," said Mr Sediqqi.

"There are some social barriers there too. The public is still not ready to accept that women should join the police," he said.

He said around 2,200 women serve in Afghanistan's national police force, but that the government plans to double the number by 2014, before landmark presidential elections in April.

Afghan forces are formally responsible for security across the country, marking a major milestone as US-led combat troops prepare to withdraw after 12 years of fighting the Taliban.

Afghanistan's 350,000-strong security forces, which include around 157,000 police, are suffering a steep rise in attacks as the NATO mission winds down, with police and army casualties said to have increased by 15 to 20 per cent since 2011.