“Progress in implementing the EVAW law contributes to deterring harmful practices and protecting women from violence in their daily lives,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Jan Kubiš. He added that the law is critical, not just for women and girls, but for all of Afghan society. The international community also has firm expectations of the Government on increasing respect for women’s rights which can affect the assistance it provides to the country.
“I call upon the Afghan Government and Parliament to fully respect and defend the fundamental rights of women and girls by ensuring that the EVAW law is respected and implemented,” said the UN Women representative in Afghanistan, Ingibjorg Gisladottir. “It is imperative for the development of Afghanistan that women are able to exercise their rights and be free from violence in their homes and workplaces.”
The landmark EVAW law, enacted in August 2009, criminalises child marriage, forced marriage, selling and buying women for the purpose or under the pretext of marriage, ba’ad (giving away a woman or girl to settle a dispute), forced self-immolation and 17 other acts of violence against women, including rape and beating. It also specifies punishment for perpetrators. The law was enacted by presidential decree and has yet to gain parliamentary approval. Judicial and law enforcement authorities are implementing the law but challenges persist in enforcing it.
In a report produced in December 2012, Still a Long Way to Go: Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan, UNAMA found that although prosecutors and courts were increasingly applying the EVAW law in a growing number of reported incidents of violence against women, the overall use of the law remained low indicating there is still a long way to go before women and girls in Afghanistan are fully protected from violence through the EVAW law.
Improving “access to justice for all, in particular women, by ensuring that the Constitution and other fundamental laws are enforced expeditiously, fairly and transparently,” and ensuring “that women can fully enjoy their economic, social, civil, political and cultural rights” are key goals agreed to by the Afghan Government in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) in July 2012 with the international community. A key indicator is the demonstrated implementation, with civil society engagement, of the EVAW Law.
UNAMA and UN Women – as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women is known by – have called on international donors to support the Government in meeting its TMAF commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and the implementation of the EVAW law by developing a joint monitoring framework with specific indicators to measure progress in these areas, with development assistance based on progress made.
The international community – as well as the UN Security Council – expects that Afghan authorities will respect and promote Afghanistan’s domestic and international obligations and legal norms in the field of human rights, notably the rights of woman children.
In its latest resolution on Afghanistan, adopted in March 2013, the Security Council recognized that despite some progress on women’s rights, enhanced efforts were required to secure the rights of women and girls and to “ensure all women and girls in Afghanistan are protected from violence and abuse, enjoy equal protection under the law and equal access to justice.” The Council also called on the Afghan Government and international donors to adhere to the commitments made at the Tokyo meeting.
Other international instruments which Afghanistan is legally bound to uphold include the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Through it, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms.
Incidents of violence against women in Afghanistan still remain largely under-reported due to cultural restraints, social norms and taboos, customary practices and religious beliefs, discrimination against women that leads to a wider acceptance of violence against them, fear of social stigma and exclusion, and, at times, a threat to life. Prevailing insecurity and weak rule of law have further hampered women’s access to formal justice institutions. Those incidents that reach law enforcement and judicial authorities or receive public attention due to their egregious nature represent the tip of the iceberg of incidents of violence against women throughout the country.
In its December 2012 report on the implementation of the EVAW law, UNAMA made 29 recommendations to the Government and its international partners urging them to ensure that promotion and protection of women’s rights are an integral part of peace and reconciliation efforts and the country’s political, economic and security strategies.