WJO Updates - March 2019
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Though we have been busy setting up our organisation, putting in place our Board, raising funds, establishing our policies and recruiting, we could not help but participate in several activities. Here's a breakdown of what we have done so far!
But before we get to that, please support our work with your kindness by donating here. We are raising money to support our cases.
On the 24 November 2018, The Afghanistan Forensic Sciences Organisation (AFSO), a member of the National Committee on the Prohibition on Virginity Testing organised a conference to launch their book on the erroneous use of hymenal examinations from a scientific, juridical and Islamic perspective.
During Humaira's prior role at Medica Afghanistan, she had organised similar Conference on Virginity Testing with the aim of bringing justice to victims. She worked closely with Natasha and MA's lawyers to develop case studies, statistics, talking points, medico-legal opinions and legal arguments to address the concerns judges and prosecutors had on prohibiting hymenal examinations altogether. These concerns were: How do we investigate crimes of adultery and rape? What if the victim consents to the examination? What if the examination can exculpate the victim? There were only a handful minority of us who stood for the position that the prohibition should be absolute in adultery and sodomy cases, and, that in rape cases, a strict and dignified protocol for holistic examination (not just hymenal examination) based on MOPH's Gender-based Violence Treatment Protocol) ought to be followed. At the first conference, we facilitated discussions around key issues and concerns. At the recent conference, we did one-on-one lobbying to influence the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General's Spokesperson on our stand. We also gave several interviews to national tv and radio to educate the public on the myths surrounding virginity testing.
The #GenevaConference took place on 27 - 28 November 2018, to take stock of Afghanistan's progress to date and renew Afghanistan's and the international community's commitments to peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Several pre-conference events were organised to bring people from all sectors of society together. In October 2018, we were invited to speak on a panel of experts at a pre-conference Open Forum organized by Afghanistan Policy and Research Organisation. The purpose of the Open Forum was to serve as an enabling space for closer interface between state authorities and civil society on peace and prosperity based on evidence, trust and complementarity. The outcome of this event was widely disseminated prior to, during, and after the Geneva Conference. The panelists spoke on four themes, peace, elections, gender equality, and anti-corruption. We contributed our perspectives on gender equality and rule of law in Afghanistan and responded to open questions.
We were also invited to facilitate a group session on social security at a National Civil Society Conference in Kabul held on the 11 and 12 of November 2018 to discuss the specific agenda points of the Geneva Conference. This was an opportunity for constructive dialogue between the state and civil society on Afghanistan’s development objectives.
The Geneva Conference concluded with Afghanistan's commitment to fulfilling clear deliverables.
2019 began with several cases falling into our laps.
We have started preliminary investigations into the incidence of sexual harassment on campus. We also joined Women and Children Legal Research Foundation in February 2019 to review the Anti-Harassment Law and look into the set up of Committees to increase women's access to recourse. During our assessment and engagement with government officials, judges, prosecutors and activists, we noted that even amongst legal professionals, people's understanding of sexual harassment was stereotypical. There was no understanding of the insidious ways sexual harassment occurs and how it has a creeping effect on women's rights to education, labour and public life. We gave a presentation to correct myths around sexual harassment, explain developments in the law and provided inputs on how we can further improve the provisions of the law.
35% of Afghan girls are married before the age of 18 and 9% are married before their 15th birthday. According to UNICEF, Afghanistan has the 18th highest absolute number of child brides in the world. The government is passing new regulations to incentivize marriage registration in Afghanistan in order to detect and prevent child marriage. WJO contributed inputs to the draft regulation. We thank our member of the Board of Trustee for supporting us with his valuable inputs.