Advancing women’s access to justice in Afghanistan the focus of national conference
KABUL - Advocacy and action are urgently needed to protect women and to improve their access to justice, stressed Afghan civil society and government leaders gathered today at a UN-backed conference in Kabul.
The discussion at the event, attended by government officials, civil society members and international partners, focused on the recommendations of a May 2018 report in which UNAMA identified the human rights implications of the widespread use of mediation in cases of violence against Afghan women.
“The use of mediation in criminal cases serves not only to normalise violence against women but also to undermine confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, in launching the report in May.
“The report’s findings, including details indicating unchecked impunity in honour killings and the murder of women, signals that justice for Afghan women victims of violence remains severely inadequate,” said the UN envoy.
Speakers at the event today offered similar observations about the report, underlining the importance of bolstering advocacy and acting on initiatives to advance the implementation of Afghanistan legislation, including the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law and the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan.
“The recommendations of the report will give policymakers new ideas on improving the implementation of the EVAW law, as we need to have new ways of addressing violence against women,” said Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Lower House of Parliament and Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Women, Civil Society and Human Rights.
Also speaking at the event was the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Alhaj Delbar Nazari, who noted that the Ministry has made progress with the Attorney General’s Office in hiring more female lawyers and prosecutors dedicated to cases of violence against women, which she said has led to an increase in the number of women seeking and receiving judicial services.
She went on to describe how Women’s Affairs is working with other ministries on new family and mediation legislation to strengthen the EVAW law, and has built a database to track specific cases. “We have a strong determination to support the women of Afghanistan, and we are working toward a more effective implementation of the EVAW law,” she said.
Afghanistan passed the EVAW law in 2009. Yet nearly a decade later, the situation remains unchanged for many women across the country, particularly in remote areas where harmful traditional practices are prevalent and access to justice inadequate.
“It is important that we not lose sight of the critical issue of the protection of women’s rights,” said Yamamoto in briefing the United Nations Security Council in late June. “Women who have been subjected to criminal violence must be able to assert their rights according to the law.”
UNAMA’s ‘Injustice and Impunity: Mediation of Criminal Offences of Violence against Women’ report documents the individual experiences of Afghan women, survivors of violence across the country, between August 2015 and December 2017. In the criminal cases of violence against women outlined in the report, the majority were mediated by traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.
The report notes that the existing legal framework and court adjudication processes in Afghanistan provide options for women facing violence, and emphasises that mediation cannot replace the judicial protections provided to women by the constitution and laws of Afghanistan.
The full report, which was produced by UNAMA in coordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is available online: https://unama.unmissions.org/women’s-rights-reports.
Those participating in the event today agreed that, going forward, a coherent approach to EVAW implementation, including a plan of action, is essential. Other similar UN-backed events to strategize on the report's recommendations are scheduled to take place across Afghanistan in the coming weeks.