Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 86

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Foreign Affairs

Afghanistan—Women’s Rights

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a girl, a young woman or a woman. Of 4 million young Afghans attending school, only one quarter are girls. In Kabul, only half of girls under 18 go to school. Outside of Kabul, only 9 per cent of girls under 18 go to school.

I was extremely pleased to see that on May 23, 2012, Minister Baird and Minister Oda released a statement condemning the cowardly and senseless acts of violence against innocent schoolgirls and their teachers. I commend both honourable ministers for standing up for the rights of women and girls living in Afghanistan. Access to education is a basic and fundamental human right, one to which all girls in all parts of the world are entitled.

Investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programs in education and health is one of Canada’s four priorities in Afghanistan. How much time, money and resources have we invested in achieving this priority? What are our plans for the future?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I believe that the honourable senator asked me a similar question about resources some time ago and I undertook to provide that information by delayed answer. I apologize if we have not done that. I will look into it.

The plight of women in Afghanistan is of great concern to the government, as indicated by the actions and statements of Ministers Baird and Oda. The Afghan code of conduct, which describes women as secondary, is something that no modern society can tolerate. Afghanistan must uphold the provisions of its constitution, which establishes equal rights for men and women, and respect its obligations under international law.

There is a very complicated and changing dynamic in that country, but Afghan women deserve to be treated as equals. Protecting and promoting human rights in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls, is a core element of our government’s ongoing commitment and engagement there. All civilized societies are shocked by incidents such as occurred recently at a school for young Afghan girls.

I will undertake to provide Senator Jaffer with the details of the programs and their costs.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I appreciate the leader’s efforts to provide that information. Will she also provide information on Resolution 1325? As the leader well knows, we led this initiative in the United Nations and our Armed Forces are doing training on Resolution 1325.

Will the leader find out how much training we are doing with the Afghan security forces, what kind of resources we are investing, and whether we are doing training on rape investigations?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will do my best to provide all the information available on the programs we have in place surrounding Resolution 1325.

Senator Jaffer: Finally, honourable senators, what steps are we taking to ensure that the small advances we have made in the education of girls are not destroyed when we leave Afghanistan?

Senator LeBreton: That is a dilemma for anyone in Afghanistan, considering some of the things that we witnessed while there. I am sure that guarantees will be sought. Having said that, we are sometimes within our rights to be very concerned about commitments being followed through on. I will definitely get that information.