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  • With a Little Help from the War on Terror: The Women’s Shelters

    Torunn Wimpelmann

    Chapter from the book: Wimpelmann, T. 2017. The Pitfalls of Protection: Gender, Violence, and Power in Afghanistan.


    This chapter investigates a series of public controversies over women’s shelters. The shelters, by opening up a space where conventional forms of social regulation of women’s conduct could not reach, were seen as undermining family control over female sexuality. They encountered and sometimes collided with government practices that upheld family claims over women, such as the practice of detaining women who had “escaped from the house.” Eventually, amid a growing populist backlash that depicted the NGO-run shelters as part of a Western plot against family, religion, and morality, the Afghan government made a bid to nationalize them. The chapter argues that the shelters provide a stark example of how women served, on the one hand, as a marker for national sovereignty and religious purity and, on the other, as a litmus test of Western commitments to Afghanistan. As Western acquiescence to the proposed nationalization of the shelters was equated with capitulating to the Taliban, the shelter issue was made into a question of military resolve, mobilizing an international outcry that eventually led the Afghan government to back down.

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    Wimpelmann, T. 2017. With a Little Help from the War on Terror: The Women’s Shelters. In: Wimpelmann, T, The Pitfalls of Protection. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.32.e

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on May 16, 2017