While welcoming the first report of the Government of Afghanistan on the implementation of a landmark law that seeks to stem violence against women, a senior human rights official with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reiterated a call for the law’s full implementation.
The Deputy Director of UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit, James Rodehaver, also called on Afghan authorities to resolve cases of violence against women through the criminal justice system rather than mediation, which has often been the case.
“Its findings reinforce UNAMA’s assessments that violence against women and girls in Afghanistan remains prevalent, and that while more cases are being reported, too many cases – including serious crimes – are still resolved through mediation rather than through the criminal justice system,” Mr. Rodehaver said in relation to the report released by the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) on Saturday.
“Moving forward, it will be important to see how the Government responds to its report and what further measures it takes to fully implement and enforce the EVAW law,” the UN official added.
The MoWA report, which covered the Afghan year of 1391 (one-year period up to March 2013) and 32 of the country’s 34 provinces, covers all cases of violence against women (VAW) the Government dealt with, including those dealt with through use of the Penal Code and civil code, and not only the EVAW law.
It documented 4,505 VAW cases, which is equivalent to 35 cases per 100,000 Afghan females. Five provinces – Kabul, Herat, Takhar, Balkh and Kapisa – accounted for 54.5 per cent of all registered cases.
The report found that the most prevalent forms of violence are beating/battery and laceration with 1,826 cases (40.5 per cent) followed by murder with 327 cases (7.3 per cent), abusing, humiliation and intimidation with 242 cases (5.4 per cent), not feeding with 242 cases (5.4 per cent), and forced marriage with 230 cases (5.1 per cent).
“These five types of violence account for 63.7 per cent of all registered cases,” the report noted.
UNAMA’s latest report on the implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law, released last December, found that Afghan authorities registered more cases of violence against women in 2013, but prosecutions and convictions under the law remained low, with most cases settled by mediation.
Enacted in 2009 through a Presidential decree, the EVAW law criminalizes acts of violence against women and harmful practices including child marriage, forced marriage, forced self-immolation, baad (giving away a woman or girl to settle a dispute) and 18 other acts of violence against women including rape and beating. It also specifies punishment for perpetrators.
The MoWA report found no case registered under three types of violence that fall under the EVAW law – recording the identity of a victim and publicizing it in a manner that damages the personality of the victim, forcing women into drug addiction, and forced labour.
Of the cases in which verdicts have been delivered, ten of them resulted in death sentences, 30 in jail sentences and two acquittals.
“Mediation has emerged as the most preferred and commonly used method of resolution of VAW cases because it respects the sanctity of ‘family’ as a unit and is in consonance with cultural traditions. To improve the quality of mediation through EVAW law institutions and to ensure that there is a common standardized approach to mediation of cases; MoWA will prepare guidelines in consultation with all implementing agencies and accordingly train staff of agencies,” the report stated.
It also urged more recruitment of women into the Afghan police force, which will “automatically improve women’s access and comfort with the police.”
It said the Ministry of Interior’s plan to increase the number of women in the police force from about 2,000 now to 10,000 by the end of this year “will be crucial in improving reporting and registration of cases.”
MoWA said the publication of the report was “a major step forward” on the path to free women from violence. “The report will boost confidence of the EVAW law institutions in view of the capacity and resource constraints and challenges faced,” the Ministry said in the report.