Afghanistan: Significant Setbacks for Women’s Rights Reported by United Nations and NGOs

As preparations continue for the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, multiple developments indicate that the past decade’s progress towards recognizing and protecting women’s rights has stalled and is at risk of reversal. 

A United Nations report on the implementation of Afghanistan’s 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law found that the number of reported incidents of violence against women increased by 28 percent between 2012 and 2013, as compared to the prior year, but use of the EVAW law as the basis for indictment increased by only 2 percent. Whether due to a lack of sufficient resources or deliberate decisions by prosecutors and courts, many registered complaints were mediated or otherwise dealt with outside of the judicial process.

In addition, an effort in May 2013 to codify the EVAW law, which was approved by presidential decree but has not been passed by Parliament, prompted conservative members to attack many of the law’s provisions as “un-Islamic.”  Conservatives argued for abolishing the minimum marriage age for girls and against making rape a crime. The Parliament speaker stopped the debate and sent the EVAW law back to committee.

Other troubling recent developments include a draft law “prepared by Afghan government officials that reintroduced execution by stoning as the punishment for the ‘crime’ of adultery” and a proposed law revision that would ban crime victims from testifying against family members, essentially making impossible prosecutions for domestic violence and forced or underage marriage.

Compiled from: Barr, Heather, In Afghanistan, Women Betrayed, The New York Times (Dec. 10, 2013) and Rubin, Alissa, Afghan Effort to Get Justice for Women Seems to Stall, The New York Times (Dec. 8, 2013).