Afghanistan blocks law that would have increased domestic violence

By Uhrra February 23, 2014 04:43

Amnesty International commended President Hamid Karzai’s decision not to sign the draft Criminal Procedure Code, which would have denied justice to victims of rape, domestic violence and under-aged and forced marriage. The law was a threat to progress made on women’s human rights, and the President’s veto is welcome.

The draft code passed by the Afghan parliament last month included a new provision which would have prohibited relatives of the accused from testifying in criminal cases. With most cases of gender-based violence taking place in the family, this would have made successful prosecutions nearly impossible.

Afghan women must be supported by Australia and international community

Women’s and human rights groups in Afghanistan have been advocating since last year for the law not to be signed. Their calls were echoed around the world, including by the thousands of Amnesty International supporters in Australia who emailed President Karzai and the Minister of Justice Ghalib.

“Clearly, local women’s organisations play an important role in Afghanistan,” said Ming Yu, spokesperson on Afghan Women’s Rights at Amnesty International Australia.

“Australia should follow the recommendations made last year during the Senate inquiry on aid to Afghanistan, and directly fund Afghan women’s organisations, so that they can continue to hold their government to account.”

The recommendations were made in a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Senate committee report on Australia’s overseas development programs in Afghanistan.

“Australia also must take every opportunity to use its membership position on the UN Security Council and as an aid donor to protect and advance the rights of Afghan women, and stand firmly by local women’s and human rights groups in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan should avoid retrograde laws

Horia Mosadiq, researcher on Afghanistan at Amnesty International, said, “This is an important step against retrograde legislation that would have let rapists and perpetrators of domestic violence off the hook.”

“This draft code would have taken Afghanistan back decades in terms of discrimination of women and girls in the country. President Karzai has taken a crucial step by refusing to sign the amended code. Meanwhile he must ensure that victims of domestic violence, rape and other crimes have a viable path to justice, including by putting in place witness protection programmes.”

“Government officials and members of parliament must steer clear of any proposed law that undermines the human rights gains made by the Afghan people in recent years. This includes not enacting laws that discriminate against women.”

“Any amendments must only strengthen human rights protection and compliance with Afghanistan’s obligations under international law.”

In addition to removing blocks on the prosecution of rapists and other abusers, Amnesty International is calling on the Afghan authorities to take all necessary measures to fully and effectively implement the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women law throughout the country.

The law criminalised some 20 acts of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, underage and forced marriages as well as exchange of girls in marriage as part of a dowry or blood price (“baad”). It has made great strides in recognizing a woman’s human right to be protected from violence and harmful practices.

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By Uhrra February 23, 2014 04:43

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