Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Are Afghan Women Victims of the Justice System?

by Dr. CESAR CHELALA

Senior United Nations officials urged the Government of Afghanistan to implement legislation in line with international commitments to protect women from all forms of violence. They issued their request after the Afghan Parliament failed to ratify the Elimination of Violence Against Women law (EVAW) on May 18, 2013.

The Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women banned and set serious penalties for underage and forced marriage, domestic violence, rape, forced prostitution and other abuses against women. President Hamid Karzai had passed the law with a presidential decree in 2009, but the law had to be ratified by Parliament. Failure to do so is a serious setback for women’s rights in the country.

Jan Kubis, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said, “Progress in implementing the EVAW law contributes to deterring harmful practices and protecting women from violence in their daily lives.”

Although reliable statistics are not readily available, HRW estimates that there are now approximately 600 women and girls imprisoned in Afghanistan for “moral crimes”. Those moral crimes include flight from unlawful forced marriages. “The majority of women and girls imprisoned for “moral crimes” are actually victims themselves,” stated Phelim Kine, HRW’s deputy director for Asia.

Many women and girls are still forced into marriage, often at a very young age and to much older men. As a result, it is estimated that every two hours an Afghan woman or girl dies of pregnancy-related causes. This is due, in part, because they are forced to marry immediately after puberty and they give birth when their bodies still are not fully developed.

Many women leave those unhappy relationships. When this happens, however, their relatives track them down and accuse them of running away from their marriage or of zina, which is defined by Islamic Law as unlawful sexual intercourse between a man and a woman not married to each other. Some women have been convicted of zina after they were raped or forced into prostitution.

Even if charges are not proven, women suffer from invasive medical examinations (“virginity tests”) and severe damages to their credibility and reputation. “Coerced ‘virginity’ examinations are a form of sexual assault,” stated Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia Director. Only rarely the police and the justice system investigate claims of abuse cited by women as their reason for fleeing home.

In Afghanistan, there were expectations that more than ten years after the fall of the Taliban, women’s rights –which had been systematically abused during the Taliban’s rule- would be respected. However, a recent investigation by the Independent Media Consortium Productions (IMCP) shows a significant surge in violent acts against women. They range from sexual assault to beatings and murder.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) recorded 200 cases of murder and rape between January and September 2012, compared with 89 in 2011. However, there hasn’t been any significant progress in punishing the offenders.

Although there has been increased participation of women in Afghanistan’s social, educational and political life, prejudices and ineffectual application of laws continue to exact a heavy toll on women. While women who flee abuse often end up incarcerated, the men responsible for those abuses frequently enjoy impunity from prosecution.

To make matters even more discriminatory against women, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan has instructed the country’s judges to treat the “running away” as a crime, despite the absence of this offense in Afghan law. Prosecutors often argue that women and girls detained for “moral crimes” are of bad moral character and probably “fabricate” their stories of abuse.

Afghanistan’s justice system should investigate all crimes against women and prosecute those presumed guilty. Until Afghanistan’s justice system treats all its citizens equally, the country will continue to be a pariah among those nations that respect justice and women’s rights.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]