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Cablegate: Evaw Ready to Publish, Mps Push Improvements

DE RUEHBUL #3210/01 2861301
P 131301Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: The Minister of Justice told the Deputy
Ambassador on September 28 that the law on the Elimination of
Violence Against Women is currently in the MOJ printing
department, ready for official publication. Simultaneously,
the Women's, Human Rights, and Civil Society Committee in the
lower house of Parliament is revising the soon-to-be
published law to make it more enforceable in the future. The
full house will begin debating the revised law in the weeks
ahead, and it could take several months for Parliament to
approve a new version. While the publication of EVAW will be
an important step forward for women's rights, Afghanistan has
a long way to go in improving the institutions that will
allow the law to be effectively implemented. The pending
publication of EVAW and the Women's Committee's efforts to
improve the law are positive efforts that we are seeking to
expand. END SUMMARY.

EVAW: Prepared for Publication

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2. (SBU) Minister of Justice Danesh told the Deputy
Ambassador in a September 28th meeting that the Law on the
Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) is currently at
the MOJ printing press, and should be printed "within a few
days." As of October 12, it had not yet been printed.
Minister of Women's Affairs Ghazanfar announced to visiting
representatives from the Congressional Research Service on
October 12 that the law would be published "within the next
two or three days." However, the law, which was signed by
Presidential decree on July 19 during a parliamentary recess,
already appears on the MOJ website. According to Article 44
of the law, it "shall be enforced from the date of
publication in the official gazette." Minister Danesh gave
no indication as to why the MOJ has taken over two months to
publish EVAW, versus the eight days they needed to publish
the Shia Personal Status Law (SPSL), which the President also
signed on July 19. The Minister assured the Deputy
Ambassador he understood the international community's
interest in the EVAW and SPSL, and agreed with the Deputy
Ambassador's exhortation to "keep working for women's and
men's rights."

The Path to Improvement

3. (SBU) Over the past several months, numerous civil
society representatives and progressive MPs have expressed
their strong approval of EVAW (reftel). They are without
reservation in favor of a law that will protect women from
all forms of violence. However, the version of the law that
President Karzai signed is not as strong as it could be. The
Criminal Law Reform Working Group (CLRWG), composed of both
international and Afghan legal experts, submitted suggested
revisions on EVAW to the legislative drafting office of the
MOJ in June. The MOJ only accepted approximately ten percent
of their recommendations. While the law is an important
piece of legislation and a step forward for human rights in
Afghanistan, the CLRWG convincingly argues that it is not yet
as strong as it needs to be in order to be most effective.

4. (SBU) In early September the MOJ passed the signed EVAW
law to the Parliament for their review, per Article 79 of
Afghanistan's Constitution applying to laws signed during
Parliamentary recess. The CLRWG, co-chaired by the UNODC and
the INL-funded Justice Sector Support Program, met with the
Women's, Civil Society, and Human Rights Committee (the
Committee) in the lower house of Parliament on October 4 to
encourage the Committee to amend the law. The CLRWG is
pressing for the same changes they initially proposed to the
MOJ before the law was signed. In order to revise the EVAW
law, the Parliament will need to amend the soon-to-be
published version after it is in the legal gazette. The
CLRWG proposed revisions based on the rationale that
"effective protection of women is possible only when the law
can be effectively implemented in a way that achieves its
desired aims." Given Minister Danesh's comment to the Deputy
Ambassador that, in Afghanistan, "laws are generally
well-intentioned, but there are problems implementing them,"
efforts to ensure EVAW can actually be enforced are important.

5. (SBU) CLRWG representative Michael Hartmann provided the
Committee with suggestions on how to improve the law in key
areas which would align the law with the already-existing
penal code, improve enforceability, and remove
criminalization of non-criminal acts (such as cursing). The
CLRWG recommended a number of EVAW articles be amended to
refer to or amend the penal code. According to CLRWG's
analysis this would strengthen, rather than override or

KABUL 00003210 002 OF 002

contradict, criminal law in Afghanistan. For example, the
group recommended EVAW include an article amending Article
427 of the penal code, which currently criminalizes adultery.
The amended language would separately and more harshly
criminalize rape. Amending the penal code would also ensure
that male victims of rape are provided the same rights as
female victims. The CLRWG recommended language in seven
articles of the EVAW law that more precisely defines the
material elements of prohibited conduct. The revised
language more clearly defines crimes, thus making it easier
for prosecutors to prove that a crime was committed.
Additionally, the CLRWG suggested the Committee remove
"unrealistic promises" included in the law, such as mandatory
government-provided legal aid and prioritization of EVAW
cases, which either violate others' rights or are simply
impossible given the current legal infrastructure in

6. (SBU) Members of the Committee who participated in the
meeting, including MPs Tahera Meherzada (Tajik, Kapisa),
Sabrina Saqib (Tajik, Kabul), Babrak Shinwari (Pashtun,
Nangarhar), and Sadat Fatahi (Tajik, Herat), as well as two
legal advisors, appeared to agree with CLRWG's October 4
presentation. They were receptive to the groups'
suggestions, though Shinwari noted that any changes they make
must "be in line with Afghan culture." He was certain that
some MPs in the lower house would oppose the solutions to
women's right violations proposed in the EVAW law. Saqib,
however, was optimistic that conservative elements in
Parliament would allow the changes, particularly those which
either remove articles completely or refer back to the penal

The Long Road Ahead

7. (SBU) There is still a long road ahead to Parliament's
approval of an amended EVAW law. The Committee expects to
receive input on the law from Afghan civil society leaders
shortly. They will then share the law with international
organizations for their feedback. Once the Committee has
agreed on revised language, they will send EVAW to
representatives from 18 other Parliamentary committees for
their review. The entire lower house was scheduled to debate
the law on October 13, however, the Committee chair recently
requested an extention. Abdul Ghafar Jamshedee, Deputy
Secretary General of the lower house, said it will be a
"tough debate" which will likely continue for several
sessions. He said passing the revisions "will not be easy...
Afghanistan is a conservative country." Once the lower house
approves a revised version, the upper house will still need
to debate and approve the law. As both houses of Parliament
have reached quorum only once in the last three months, the
process of reviewing and revising the EVAW law is likely to
drag out well into 2010. This, however, is a speedy
improvement compared to Parliamentary review of past
Presidential decrees, which has sometimes taken years to even
initiate. International interest in the law likely pressured
government officials to hasten the legislative process for

8. (SBU) Once EVAW is published in the official gazette, and
even before the necessary revisions are in place, the
immediate task will be to continue to strengthen the
institutions that support the effective implementation of the
law. Afghanistan needs to continue to train police to work
with women victims of violence, provide legal assistance, and
educate lawyers and judges familiar with the country's new,
progressive laws. Manizha Naderi, Director of Women for
Afghan Women and the head of a women's shelter in Kabul,
warned that most provincial courts will not likely enforce
EVAW any time soon.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: The current, signed version of the EVAW
law will remain in effect from its publication until the
possible publication of a revised version. Extremely
dedicated Afghan women's rights activists and progressive
members of Parliament worked hard to draft a law that would
protect women. However, in order for the law to be most
effective, it is important Parliament review and rwill continue to
support. END COMMENT.

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