International Development Law Organization

International Women’s Day: What Hope for Afghan Women?

In the past month in Afghanistan:

  • a drug addict mutilated his wife’s genitals when she tried to prevent him from selling their baby; he’d previously served a three-year sentence for killing his first wife;
  • a man tried to sell his eleven-year-old daughter to raise money to remarry;
  • a newly-elected female member of Nangarhar Provincial Council died of injuries sustained in a bomb attack.

These are just three of the crimes reported to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The total since last May exceeds 4000 cases; of these, 1000 concern torture, 50 – murders, and 85 – child marriage.

For IDLO, helping combat violence against women and girls is a priority. Working with the Afghan government, we have assisted in the creation of Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) units, whose role is to prosecute such cases.

As part of our Supporting Access to Justice in Afghanistan (SAJA) program, in the last month alone, we have conducted training on forensic medicine, on inter-agency collaboration and on evidence gathering.

In Kabul, sixteen lawyers, prosecutors and members of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs – both male and female – joined one of three forensics training workshops. The course covered forensic medicine law, issues related to forensic criminal investigations such as murder, rape and beatings, and a visit to an autopsy room to witness the damage to the body of a woman who had suffered beatings. Participants commended the training as highly effective, especially on sensitive topics such as virginity testing and rape.

In Bamyan province, twenty participants from EVAW units, the Ministry of Interior Family Response teams, the Directorate of Women’s Affairs and women’s shelters joined a three-day evidence collection course. This looked at different types of evidence, such as confessions and witness testimonies, and the ways in which such evidence can be gathered. Participants commended the sessions on the new Criminal Procedure Code for clarifying the responsibilities and legal rights of different parties.

IDLO also organised two sessions aimed at enhancing coordination between actors working with Women’s Protection Centers. Participants from EVAW units, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the police, the AIHRC and NGOs got an opportunity to exchange ideas and build working relationships with peers. The Head of the Women’s Protection Centers Directorate, Nazia Faizi, described the workshops as extremely useful ‘since we rarely have the chance to work out problems together face-to-face’.

During election campaigning last year, President Ashraf Ghani pledged he would ‘cut the hand involved in abuse.’ As the latest AIHRC statistics were published, Anarkali Honaryar, member of the Afghan Parliament’s Women Affairs Commission, strongly echoed his words. “Justice prevails when perpetrators involved in acts of violence against women are prosecuted,” she said.