The women who lost their index fingers were not part of an isolated incident by far, but of a much broader pattern of intimidation. “Intimidation and Fraud Observed in Afghan Election,” by Carlotta Gal for the New York Times, August 22:
KABUL, Afghanistan “” Reports of fraud and intimidation in Afghanistan’s presidential election continued to mount Saturday, with anecdotal but widespread accounts of ballot-box stuffing, a lack of impartiality among election workers and voters casting ballots for others.
A particular concern was the notably low turnout of women, who election observer organizations said were disproportionately affected by the violence and intimidation. […]
The reported problems also included voter intimidation, by the Taliban and also by some powerful candidates, in particular local candidates running for provincial council seats. Voter turnout appeared to be low, especially in the volatile south where the Taliban is strongest.
But women voters seemed to have faced disproportionate obstacles, election observer groups said.
Hundreds of polling stations for women (stations throughout the country were segregated to keep men and women from publicly mingling) did not even open in some areas where Taliban influence is high, but women also suffered discrimination and intimidation in some places in central and northern Afghanistan. Female candidates received threats and were largely ignored in news coverage of the elections, the observers said.
“The disproportionate effects of poor security conditions, widespread cultural opposition to women in public life and a number of attacks clearly aimed at deterring women’s activities all created significant obstacles,” the European Union observer mission said in its preliminary statement on Saturday.
Women are already restricted by the conservative culture in many parts of rural Afghanistan, but the growing instability has further consolidated the opinions of many families and communities that it is not appropriate for women to be active outside the home, the statement said.
At least 650 women’s polling centers planned did not open on the day, according to Free and Fair Elections in Afghanistan, known as FEFA, the largest Afghan observer organization. In the southern province of Oruzgan, of the 36 centers for women that were planned, only 6 opened, said Nader Naderi, director of FEFA. In certain polling centers in the south and southeast of the country almost no women voted, according to the National Democratic Institute, an American-financed group that promotes democracy abroad.
The insecurity also led to greater proxy voting, in which male family members vote for the women, further robbing women of their rights, observers said.
Women received almost no coverage in news reporting, and topics concerning women’s rights were virtually never featured in news coverage of the electoral campaign, the European Union mission said.
A lack of female staff members forced the election commission to use men, which deterred women from voting in areas, the National Democratic Institute said. A lack of women in the Election Complaints Commission, and the location and attitude of some of its staff members, also made it difficult for some people, particularly women, to make use of the complaints process….