New Afghan criminal procedure code may cause rise in domestic violence against women

Afghan-women-rights

With up to 87.2 percent of women having experienced some form of violence, women’s rights group asks President Hamid Karzai to withdraw his support to the law

By Team FI
In January this year, the Afghan Parliament passed a Revised Criminal Procedure Code that prohibits relatives of the victim/accused from testifying as witness during criminal investigations.

Jalal Foundation, a women’s rights group, fears that this will encourage family members to commit domestic violence with absolute impunity since women, girls and children can no longer be protected by relatives as they will not be able to testify against any accused family members. The Code awaits the signature of the President to complete the process of its enactment and Jalal Foundation and the many organizations of women and human rights are asking President Hamid Karzai not to do so.

Violence against Afghan women and girls is almost at a pandemic level, with up to 87.2 percent of women having experienced some form of violence To make the matter worse, offenders have either been at large or have received light punishment from the justice system, allege Jalal Foundtation activists.

Despite public indignation against it, weak leadership and political commitment remain a major stumbling block to the solution of the problem.

According to activists, offenders are emboldened by the inability of authorities to enforce the law and by the notion that the Taliban – the forebears of atrocities against women – are back in the mainstream of Afghan life.

The recent report of the UN High Commission for Human Rights reveals a 28 percent increase in violence against women in 2013. The recent case of Sitara demonstrates the risks that Afghan women face from the very people who are supposed to be their protectors. Sitara was beaten till nearly unconscious, arms and hands broken, stabbed in the head, and nose and ears sliced off, she barely survived the attacks of her husband right in front of their children. Other cases include the rape of Chaman Gul by a gang of police, hanging of two women in Logar, murder of two women by their sons in Faryab, murder of a daughter-in-law and two grandsons by their grandfather in Ghazni ;murder of Shakila in Bamianl, beheading of Mah Gul in Herat by her mother in law and cousin for refusing to prostitute herself and many more.

Jalal Foundation listed 75 survivors from various provinces of the country whose cases are not included in the official counts. According to the Foundation, this is only one indication that there could be so many more women survivors of domestic violence missing in official statistics whose welfare and legal needs are not being properly addressed.

According to Jalal Foundation, the steps that can be taken to improve the situation include:
Male members of the family should stand up against violence against women and Afghans should redeem families – from being institutions of women’s abuse and murder into one that fosters care, compassion, and protection for its members.

Violence against women should be placed within the ambit of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The international community should withhold at least 30 percent of their aid to Afghanistan and use it as leverage to ensure that the government adopts effective measures to prevent violence against women and raise the percentage of offenders being prosecuted.

Afghan government should increase the number of women’s shelters and their budgets.

The legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government should find a permanent solution to the illegal operation of informal courts and should be declared illegal.

Religious institutions should desist from promoting ideologies that are inimical to the well-being of women, especially those that foster gender based oppression and violence against women.

Featured photo courtesy: Jalal Foundation

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