Violence against females, regardless of age, is a problem across the world. Such violence has in the past been highlighted in Afghanistan, where new laws passed in 2009 aimed to finally end the discrimination suffered by women under the former Taliban rulers. A report from the UN suggests that there is still a lot to be done in Afghanistan on the implementation of such laws.
The report comes from the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR). The report says that the Afghan government has not yet succeeded in applying the law to the vast majority of cases of violence against women.
The report, A Long Way to Go: Implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women law in Afghanistan, follows hot on the heels of a number of high profile cases of violence against women in Afghanistan. These include allegations that two men beheaded a young girl in Kunduz province and a rape case that resulted in four Afghan policemen being jailed for 16 years.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in a statement issued by the UN: “Judges, prosecutors and police in many parts of Afghanistan have begun to use the new law which is a positive development; but unfortunately only in a small percentage of violence against women cases.”
The UN statement explains that Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law criminalises child marriage, forced marriage, selling and buying women for the purpose or under the pretext of marriage, baad (giving away a woman or girl to settle a dispute), forced self-immolation and 17 other acts of violence against women including rape and beating. It also specifies punishment for perpetrators.
The UN report suggests that those cases that do reach the courts and the media are just the tip of the iceberg and often only do so becuase of some egrarious and vociferous campaigning from victims and their supporters. Most women victims of sexual violence do not currently report incidents to the authorities for fear of reprisals.
It seems that although passing this landmark law that Judicial authorities are still not implementing it and instead refering many cases, including some of extreme violence against and even murder of women, to Islamic Sharia law courts. This often results in perpertrators not getting the sentences required under government law. The Sharia law courts also still see cases of rape and violence against women where the victim is accused alongside her attacker, of "moral crimes."
It might appear, that although some progress has been made in the fight for equality for women and against those that commit violence against women, there is still a long long way to go before all Afghan women can feel safe from male subjugation.
The Afghan government can pass all the equality laws it likes, but unless the laws are applied they will appear exactly what they are, lip service to the west in return for political and armed support to keep the Taliban at bay.
It appears that it is impossible to apply and maintain women's rights when case after case is not taken up by the judicial courts but passed for judgment to Islamic Sharia law courts.
The UN, with additional pressure from governments worldwide, including the US, needs to now act to ensure that the Afghanistan government implements the Elimination of Violence against Women law immediately or face some kind of penalty.