WJO's Oral Submission to CEDAW Committee
Dear Respected members of the Committee, the Afghanistan Delegation and my colleagues. My name is Humaira Rasuli of Women for Justice Organization. I present key issues on Access to Justice and Accountability in relation to gender-based crimes in Afghanistan.
1. On the issue of Elimination of Violence Against Women Decree 2009
The EVAW Law is the only law which criminalises 18 acts of gender-based violence. Yet, EVAW Law is still poorly implemented. Based on MOWA Report of 2019, cases of VAW increased by 20% recently. However, most cases registered with the police do not end up being prosecuted. Police, prosecution and offenders’ families pressure victims to withdraw and mediate, exploiting victim’s economic dependency and unfair child custody laws. Further, there are no follow-up mechanisms to ensure that women are safe.
Even when cases are investigated, impunity prevails. For example, in 2019 a woman was killed in court by her husband, in the presence of police. In the same year, a journalist and tv anchor Meena Mangal was killed by her in-laws and ex-husband. This week Human Rights Watch reported the impunity which prevails in the cases involving influential offenders.
Recommendation: We urge the government to swiftly arrest and try influential offenders. We also urge the government to implement a victim and witness protection program, allow for anonymous reporting, and prosecute offenders who obstruct justice.
2. On the issue of sexual harassment: Women and children are sexually harassed daily, causing them to fear their surroundings, suffer mental trauma, resign from their jobs and drop out of school. The Anti-Harassment law was so poorly drafted that it failed to address gender-discriminatory practices and ended up exposing victims to further retaliation when they report.
Recommendation: We urge the government to amend the law to take into account victims’ needs for anonymity, confidentiality, access to counsel, and restorative arrangements. Please read our Thematic Report for more details.
3. On the issue of Family Law Reform: Article 22 of our Constitution guarantees gender equality. Article 54 recognizes the government’s responsibility to protect the family as a fundamental pillar of the society. Yet our Civil Law of 1976 discriminates women in areas of child marriage, divorce, polygamy, child custody, guardianship, inheritance and matrimonial assets.
Recommendation: Family law reform is fundamental to the recognition of women as equal citizens. Our current civil law protects only the male interest. We urge the government to pass the family bill which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2016. The bill protects the welfare of the whole family and is based on progressive interpretations of Shariah Law practised in many Muslim countries.
4. On the issue of Ratification of CEDAW Optional Protocol:
In December 2019, the President of Afghanistan and 2nd Vice President approved a Petition we had submitted on the Ratification of CEDAW Optional Protocol. We urge the government to now take steps to ratify.
We thank the International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific and MUSAWAH for being with us throughout the Committee sessions and close allies in the important work we stand for.