A video in which an Afghan government official exploits a female employee has gone viral. The video shows the colonel having intercourse with a young woman who recorded the encounter and gave the footage to a colleague. The colonel’s co-workers confirmed that he had pressured her for sex when she had approached him for a promotion.

“I know he has done this many times [with other women],” said one pilot.

The colonel is known to line up girls in his office and taunt them. The ministry of defence is investigating the allegations. The video has sparked outrage in Afghanistan.

Studies have shown that women in Afghanistan have to deal with sexual misconduct on a daily basis. About 90 per cent of women have had to deal with harassment of some sort. Women’s participation in the workforce has increased only to 17.6 per cent from 14.5 per cent

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In some ministries, being asked for sexual favours in return for job or promotion “is like a prerequisite”. “It is very hard to get appointed unless you have backing,” the woman said. “If you don’t have powerful relatives, you will have to sleep with someone powerful.”

If you turn down peers, someone will badmouth you, said the woman. In one incident, a female official had refused the advances of her colleague, so he went to their boss and said she was drinking in public — which is an offence in Afghanistan.

Despite the difficulties they face, many women are fighting for a better life. In 2015, Kubra Khademi, a young artist, wore steel armour and walked the streets in protest against the groping she faced every day. Afterwards, she received so many death threats that she fled the country. There are other stories of women’s robotics teams making it to the US for competitions, graphic artist Shamsia Hassani who makes murals on the street despite death threats, and women defying norms and working as doctors, lawyers and more.

Also Read: How Women Lawyers Are Fighting Gender Discrimination in Afghanistan’s Judicial System

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