Failed justice for female survivors of violence in Afghanistan

An Afghan woman pointing out burn scars in Pul-i-Kumri, Afghanistan An Afghan woman pointing out burn scars in Pul-i-Kumri, Afghanistan Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

07 December 2020

According to UNAMA,  the justice system in Afghanistan is “Re-victimizing survivors instead of working on their behalf.”

 On 7 December 2020, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report analysing the responses and redress provided by the national justice system to survivors in reported cases of violence against women and girls between September 2018 and February 2020.

The report found that only half of reported crimes reached a primary court. Moreover, in all documented cases, only 40 per cent of the perpetrators are convicted. According to Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, “impunity remains far too common” which has led to one in every five women in cases documented by UNAMA deciding not to pursue their case through the justice channels. UNAMA have found that many women resort to self-immolation or suicide as a result.

The report raises concerns about the justice system’s problematic handling of rape cases. For example, many reported rape cases have been assessed as being cases of consensual extramarital relations, a crime under the Penal Code which undoubtably deters women’s willingness to report a rape. Furthermore, the report found low rates of conviction for so-called “honour killings” and ongoing detention of women for “running away.” For child marriage cases, UNAMA found that the vast majority are arranged or condoned by the girls’ families, which make it difficult and unrealistic for girls to be able to independently seek recourse from the justice system. Given the severe physical and psychological harm of child marriage, UNAMA emphasised that this crime should be subject to ex officio prosecution.

UNAMA have called for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW Law) to be amended for strengthened institutional responses to crimes of violence against women and girls and to expand authorities’ powers to investigate and prosecute all crimes in the Law.


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Author: Catherine Gregoire


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