Laura S. Lea
This week, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, (UNAMA) released a report on the implementation of the 2009 law on the elimination of violence against women, (EVAW) tellingly entitled ‘Still a long way to go’. This follows a 2011 report on the EVAW law called, ‘A long way to go’.
The EVAW law, brought in 3 years ago, criminalized a range of abuse and violence against women including rape, forced and child marriage, physical abuse, the selling and buying of women within the terms of marriage and ba’ad, (the offering of women as a form of restitution).The 42-page report looks at information from 22 of 34 provinces admitting that authorities in many areas were reserved in sharing information on violence against women, mainly due to the lack of registration of such cases.
The report finds progress with courts and prosecutors increasingly applying the law, although the overall use of the law remains low. There are still huge restraints in terms of social attitude, stigma, taboo and religion, which are prohibiting incidents of violence from being reported.The report recalls emotive accounts such as the following:
I got married to a man in Sawa village of Anjil district five months ago. My husband and my father-in-law had beaten me without any reason several times. The repeated mistreatment had forced me to complain, but all in vain as the prosecutor overlooked my petition and warned me to either withdraw the complaint or face imprisonment.
— Married 15-year old girl who experienced battery and laceration and who later died by forced self-immolation, Herat province, August 2012.
Among the violations criminalized under the EVAW law, UNAMA found that battery and laceration was the highest among cases reported. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 60 reported incidents of honour killings across the country, between March and August 2012. This report comes in the same week as it is announced that women’s activist, Najia Seddiqi has been shot dead. Seddiqi was head of the Women Affairs Department for the Laghman province and was killed on her way to work by two gunmen on Monday. (link: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-10/world/35721808_1_taliban-suicide-bomber-afghan-government-nimruz)
It’s worth noting that this barely made the news in the UK. This only emphasizes the point made by UNAMA director, Georgette Gagnon, at a press conference in Kabul this week, who said that application of the law was hampered by “dramatic under reporting” of violence against Afghan women. (link: http://unama.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=12254&ctl=Details&mid=15756&ItemID=36086&language=en-US)
The report concluded with a series of recommendations. It asked the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to develop referral mechanisms to ensure that victims have access to legal aid, psycho-social support and healthcare and called to International Donors to increase support for centers and organisations that support female victims. It encouraged the Afghan government to publicly emphasize that women’s rights be a “central pillar of the country’s political, economic, and security strategies.”
Amnesty International UK is currently running a campaign to promote and protect Afghan women’s rights as the international community prepares to leave. To find out more visit http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10220.