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  • Natasha Latiff

Petition for Afghanistan Government to Ratify the CEDAW Optional Protocol

As part of 16 Days of Activism and on behalf of Afghan Women's Network, we submitted a Petition to the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani appealing him to ratify the CEDAW Optional Protocol. Our letter is as follows:


Dear His Excellency the President Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani,


1. As part of 16 Days of Activism and on behalf of the Afghan Women’s Network and Women for Justice Organization Afghanistan, we appeal to your Office to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). While Afghanistan ratified CEDAW in 2003, it has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.


2. The Optional Protocol was accepted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 6 October, 1999 and its provisions became enforceable on 22 December 2000.


3. The Protocol creates two procedures, each with a distinct function. The inquiry procedure entitles the Committee to inquire into grave or systematic violations of the Convention, on its own motion.


4. The communications procedure (or complaints procedure) entitles victims (or groups of victims or organizations) to submit communications (which are complaints) to the CEDAW Committee, in relation to violations of any of the rights set forth in the Convention. The Committee receives the communications and first assesses whether the victim has exhausted all domestic remedies. If this step is satisfied, the Committee will adjudicate the merits of the communication. It will receive submissions from both the victim and the State. The Committee will then decide whether the State violated the Convention and explain which actions (or omissions) of the State amounted to a violation of one or more rights under the Convention, and why. The Committee will also issue recommendations to the State on how to remedy the violation and take affirmative action to prevent such violations from reoccurring. The Committee’s decisions are instructive and facilitative and are written to guide States on proactive actions they can take to fulfil their obligations under international law. This will help governments better understand the standards and meaning of their obligations in practice.


5. We humbly request Afghanistan to ratify the Optional Protocol. It is beneficial to victims, organizations representing victims, and the State. As a requirement of the Optional Protocol is that domestic remedies must first be exhausted, it will not encroach on the State’s jurisdiction – instead, it adds an additional enforcement mechanism to help victims in a limited set of circumstances.


6. For example, in Afghanistan we have had cases where powerful offenders have bought their way out of justice, intimidated witnesses, and obstructed justice. In such cases, despite

appealing to all possible avenues, we found that the power of the defendants is the most significant variable in the outcome of the case. Their power determines if justice will be served. We have had to, in several cases, concede to the reality that powerful offenders will escape with impunity. It is in such cases that victims and the government will benefit from an independent redressal mechanism under the Optional Protocol.


7. Our journey towards gender equality requires transformation in our systems and processes. We understand that this takes time. But we can take steps that put us on that path towards transformation. Ratifying the Optional Protocol is a foundational step.


8. We believe that by joining the community of nations which have ratified the Optional Protocol, we will benefit from the Committee’s jurisprudence. The Committee has delivered poignant decisions which have empowered justice actors around the world to learn how to interpret women’s legal rights with a gender lens under the Convention. In these countries, the Committee’s decisions have become a part of formal legal education and guide prosecutors, lawyers and judges to see the transformative power of the law, when interpreted correctly and meaningfully.


9. The Optional Protocol is an important foundation for the women’s movement, especially seeing that Afghanistan’s political and legal outlook remains unpredictable and volatile. Our rights must be secured on all fronts. The Optional Protocol procedure is an important front and a fort for the ultimate protection of our rights. It is free from undue influence by the powerful, and at the same time it respects the jurisdiction of our country, by only becoming applicable in cases where all domestic remedies have been exhausted.


10. By ratifying the Optional Protocol, the government will demonstrate its continued commitment to uphold the civil, legal, and human rights of women.


Sincerely,

Women for Justice Organization (WJO)


Copy to:

The Office of Second Vice President, Mr. Sarwar Danish,

Office of First Lady Ms. Rula Ghani

To State Minister for Human Rights and International Relations

Afghanistan Human Rights Commission


Link to the Optional Protocol (English version): https://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/pdf/cedaw-one.pdf

Link to the Optional Protocol (Dari version): http://www.unic-ir.org/hr/hr43.pdf

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