An important advancement in Afghanistan has been the development of a comprehensive electronic database to track cases of violence against women and girls across the country. Launched in 2016, it is now being used in 20 provinces.
Thousands of cases of violence are registered by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Units each year, including beatings, killings and acid attacks. For each case, a file is prepared comprising details about the accused, the victim, witnesses, basic facts of the case, and charges.
In the past, administrative staff within the AGO and EVAW Units would often misplace the paper-based case files. Victims who had come for interviews with the prosecutor were requested to wait or return another day because their file was missing. For some, this happened repeatedly.
Developed to help the Afghan government comply with its international reporting obligations and assist EVAW Units track cases, the electronic database now allows administrative staff to pull up a victim’s electronic file at the click of a button. They can immediately find out the status of her case and which prosecutor is assigned to work on it.
By using an online, “cloud-based” system, concerns have been addressed around the security of the previous offline system, which was exposed to the risk of data being destroyed by insurgent activity or computer viruses.
The database has also increased the efficiency of compiling case statistics, enabling prosecutors and administrative professionals to enter information which can then be filtered by a number of criteria. Staff from the AGO and EVAW Units can now generate reports on the number of cases registered in a given province, the types of crimes charged, the progress of a particular case, as well as basic information about both victims and defendants.
"The EVAW database helps us to process our clients’ work easily and quickly. Previously it was a challenge for us to help clients who would come and ask for a case number they had years ago. Now, we are able to help them within a few minutes,” said Nasratullah Mirzayar, Executive Administrative Officer of the EVAW Unit in Kabul. “We can also generate reports from the database to present to different committees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, donors and other organizations."
IDLO developed the software for the database in collaboration with the AGO, and trained AGO staff on its use. This proved challenging as staff tended to collect cases and enter several into the system at once, which meant it was not updated in real time. To ensure the information in the system was always accurate, AGO staff were trained on entering data correctly and promptly. To increase the means and ability of cases being entered, IDLO also donated computers and provided internet access.
Over the past year, the AGO has expanded its use of the system. For example, it now tracks the proportion of different types of crimes within each province, and utilizes this information to tailor the training provided to prosecutors in each province according to the most prevalent types of crimes.
Most recently, the AGO has requested that IDLO create a system within the database to track the reason violence has been perpetrated in each case. Reasons might include financial problems, loss of job, drug addiction, and so on. The AGO will share this information with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and others to inform and tailor future public legal awareness campaigns in an effort to reduce violence against women in Afghanistan.
By Leslie Schneider, Senior International Advisor - Elimination of Violence Against Women Component