| ||Justice Minister Apologises for Derogatory Remarks on Women Shelters|
By Shakeela Abrahimkhil
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Afghanistan's Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghaleb apologised for statements he made last week calling women's shelters "centers of misconduct" and suggesting that women residing in them were prostitutes.
Ghaleb expressed his regrets for his provocative remarks at a press conference in Kabul.
"I again emphasise that if the women, who are my daughters and sisters, have been upset by me, I as their father and older brother apologise, not once, but a thousand times," he said on Sunday.
Ghaleb had made the comment on the shelters at a conference organised by the Afghan parliament's Women's Affairs Committee.
He told delegates that the 250 women living in foreign-funded shelters across the country were being encouraged to disobey their parents.
"Mostly they were encouraging girls, saying, 'If your father says anything bad to you don't listen to him, if your mother says anything to you don't listen to them.
There are safe houses for you where you can stay.' What safe houses? What sort of immorality and prostitution is happening at these places?" he said.
His comments received widespread condemnation from women-related organisations across Afghanistan and calls for President Hamid Karzai to sack him.
EU foreign minister Baroness Ashton said last week that she was "deeply troubled" by Ghaleb's comments which had only served to undermine efforts to protect women from violence and sexual abuse.
"Too many Afghan women have experienced violence, gender based and sexual, often on a repeated basis," she said in a statement. "Women forced to resort to shelters are amongst the bravest Afghans we know."