World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Afghanistan: Reject New Law Protecting Abusers of Women

Karzai Should Not Sign Procedural Code Denying Women Legal Protections

February 4, 2014

(Kabul) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai should refuse to sign a new criminal procedure code that would effectively deny women protection from domestic violence and forced or child marriage, Human Rights Watch said today. The new law passed both houses of the Afghan parliament and is expected to be sent to Karzai for final signature into law within weeks, if not earlier.

The law would prohibit judicial authorities from questioning the relatives of a criminal defendant, effectively silencing victims of domestic violence and forced or child marriage and their family members who have witnessed abuse. This would make prosecutions of abusers extremely difficult.

“President Karzai should reject a law that will effectively let batterers of women and girls off the hook,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Should this law go into effect, Afghan women and girls will be deprived of legal protection from relatives who assault, forcibly marry, or even sell them.”

Article 26 of the draft criminal procedure law, “Prohibition of Questioning an Individual as a Witness,” states that “The following people cannot be questioned as witnesses: … 4) Relatives of the accused.” The Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, passed a version of the law in May 2013 that included this wording. In January 2014, the upper house of the Afghan parliament, the Meshrano Jirga, responded to the concerns of rights activists by revising the title of the article to read “Prohibition of Forced Questioning of a Witness.” That rewording aimed to ensure that the law would only prohibit family members from being compelled to be witnesses, yet still permit voluntary testimony by family members. However, a joint parliamentary commission convened to broker a mutually acceptable version of the law decided to use the original lower house wording which unequivocally bars testimony by family members.

The new criminal procedure code poses a serious threat to critical protections for women and girls embodied in Afghanistan’s groundbreaking Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW), passed by presidential decree in 2009. The EVAW law provided new criminal penalties for various abuses including rape, child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, sale of women and girls, and baad, the giving of girls to resolve disputes between families.

Presidential signature on the procedural law would be in clear contradiction to the government’s public commitment to women’s rights and to the EVAW law in particular at Afghanistan’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations on January 27, 2014. The UPR is the process for assessing the human rights records of all UN member countries. The head of the Afghan government’s UPR delegation, Dr. Mohammad Qasim Hashemzai, stated in his opening remarks that his government “stands committed to promoting and protecting human rights, in particular women’s and children’s rights.” He noted that government rights achievements included steps to enforce the EVAW law through “special EVAW prosecution offices.”

Context: ongoing rollback of protections for women and girls
The proposed criminal procedure law ban on testifying against relatives follows several other efforts by the Afghan parliament to weaken already inadequate legal protections for women’s rights.

Members of parliament opposed to women’s rights have sought to repeal or weaken the EVAW law. A Wolesi Jirga debate over the EVAW law in May was halted after 15 minutes when lawmakers argued for repeal of the law, calling for elimination of the minimum marriage age for girls, abolition of shelters, and ending criminal penalties for rape. In July, a newly appointed member to the official Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission called for the EVAW law’s repeal. Although government enforcement of the EVAW law has been slow and uneven, it has been an invaluable tool for fighting violence against women.

Other troubling developments for women’s rights in 2013 included attacks on and killings of high-profile female government and police officials, and a reduction in the number of seats set aside for women on the country’s 34 provincial councils.

In November 2013, a draft law prepared by Afghan officials that would have reinstated public execution by stoning as a punishment for adultery was stopped after being leaked to the media.

At the July 2012 Tokyo Conference, international donors pledged US$16 billion in development aid funding to Afghanistan over the coming years. In return, the Afghan government committed to a set of goals that laid out in a document called the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. One of these commitments was “Demonstrated implementation, with civil society engagement, of… the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW), including through services to victims as well as law enforcement, on an annual basis.” In advance of a follow-up meeting to the Tokyo Conference in July 2013, donors pressed for a report from the Afghan government on its enforcement of the EVAW law. The government has not yet delivered that report to donors. Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs Mezghan Mostafawi announced at the January 27, 2014 UPR session that the report launch would occur on January 29. That date has now passed without release of the report.

“President Karzai should take a stand for Afghan women by sending the new law back to parliament with a message that he will not sign it until it is revised in line with the goals of the EVAW law and Afghanistan’s obligations under international law,” Adams said.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Mexico: Violence And Repression Of Teachers

The member organizations of Network for Peace express our indignation over the acts of repression that the Mexican State has carried out, through the police forces... In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the conflict has resulted in murders of teachers and civilians as well as hundreds of wounded and dozens of people arrested. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news