Afghan women fear mandatory poll photos could stop them from voting

Source: Reuters

By Abdul Qadir SediqiStoray Karimi

KABUL/HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan women’s rights activists have demanded the authorities lift a requirement that all voters be photographed at polling stations in Saturday’s presidential election, arguing that it could prevent hundreds of thousands of women from voting.

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah attend the presidential election campaign in Herat, Afghanistan September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Jalil Ahmad

Afghanistan’s electoral authorities have decided to photograph all voters using facial recognition software as an anti-fraud measure, after elections in 2009 and 2014 ended in disputes over rampant ballot stuffing.

But the photo requirement could be particularly difficult for women, especially in conservative areas, where most adult women and older girls cover their faces outside the home and do not show themselves to men who are not their relatives.

The election commission says that women voters can have their pictures taken by female election staff. But it acknowledges that at least 1,450 of the nearly 30,000 polling stations employ no women.

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