Bamyan discusses advancing women’s rights and access to justice

9 Sep 2018

Bamyan discusses advancing women’s rights and access to justice

BAMYAN – To improve women’s access to justice, efforts must focus on creating a more user-friendly judicial system, combating discriminatory practices and supporting grassroots advocacy on women’s rights, stressed panellists during a radio discussion in the central highlands province of Bamyan.

Featuring on a UN-backed radio programme on Radio Bamyan, panellists said addressing gender stereotypes and discriminatory practices both in the community and legal system is an important first step in enhancing women’s access to formal justice and gender equality. Participants called for efficient, affordable and women-friendly judicial services to win the trust of women and victims of gender violence and abuse.

“The formal judicial system discourages women and victims of violence to report cases,” said Ibrahim Tawlas a panellist and member of the Bamyan civil society. “Most of the women are economically dependent and cannot afford expensive legal processes,” he said, adding that majority of women opt for informal judicial processes such as mediation.

A recent joint report by UNAMA and OHCHR, Injustice and Impunity: Mediation of Criminal Offences of Violence Against Women recommends reforms to protect women and to improve their access to justice. The report emphasises that mediation cannot replace the judicial protections provided to women by the constitution and laws of Afghanistan.

Another panellist and official from Bamyan’s department of women affairs, Aziza Ahmadi, said that government is strengthening measures to support and encourage women to access justice including the introduction of special courts and prosecutors dedicated to cases of violence against women. “We have three female prosecutors in the province with one devoted to cases of violence against women” said Ahmadi, adding that the province has in the last two years seen an increase in the number of women seeking judicial services.

Statistics from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), show a three-hundred-fold increase in the number of cases reported on violence against women in Bamyan, in 2017 compared to 2016 and 2015. AIHRC attributes the increase in reported cases to increased awareness among women about their rights and legal protection available to them.

Afghanistan passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women 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.

During the engaging discussion, the panellists agreed to work alongside women groups, religious leaders and local authorities to sensitise women as well as communities on the rights of women.

Supported by UNAMA’s regional office in Bamyan, the radio discussion was aired to an estimated audience of 60,000 in and around the provincial capital as part of a series of outreach events aimed at providing local communities with platforms to discuss critical issues affecting them.