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Two women are seen at a women's shelter and safe house in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Paula Bronstein/Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

"In the seven years since Afghanistan adopted a constitution and set up a parliament, the country has put in place laws establishing equal rights and outlawing violence against women," The Globe's Susan Sachs wrote In Monday's Globe and Mail.

"Yet laws alone have changed little for the vast majority of women who must still rely on the good will of male relatives, rather than the formal legal system, to claim those rights.

"In most parts of the country, the boundaries of an Afghan woman's life is still set by men: what she wears, at what age she marries, whether she can go to a doctor when she's ill, if she gets the inheritance she is due, and how much violence she is made to bear.

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"If she dares to object, men also are the arbiters. Civil courts and religious courts, both administered by the government to deal with family matters, do operate in a few parts of the country.

"But most Afghans - by tradition, preference or mistrust of government - still use parallel informal systems of home-based justice. When there are domestic conflicts to settle or punishment to be meted out, most often they are decided within the family circle or in ad-hoc councils of male elders called 'jirgas'."

Improving the plight of Afghan women and children is one of the key reasons cited by the Harper government for Canada's continued military involvement in the war-torn country.

But is our presence, along with the efforts of other western nations, having any impact?

"In Afghanistan, it's useless to leave it to men to talk about women's rights because they think only in terms of how they can benefit," says Shahla Farid, a human-rights law professor at Kabul University.

"The other approach is for women to learn from each other and fight for their rights. It's far from widespread, but we are seeing some results."

Please join Globe correspondents Jessica Leeder and Sonia Verma, who have both reported from Afghanistan on this issue and the broader military mission, for an online discussion Tuesday from 1-2 p.m. ET.

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Readers can submit questions now via the comment function on this article, or click on the box below when the discussion begins. Mobile phone users can follow the discussion here.

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