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women and girl                                                                                                   EC Catherine Ashton

Brussels/Kabul, 17 Feb 2014 – Due to the pressure of women in and outside Afghanistan and of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, who was informed by ENNA, the Afghanistan's President Karzai has refused to sign a new discriminatory law. The new "Criminal Procedure Code" had been denounced clearly as a major setback for women's rights. Now it will not come into force unless the Minister of Justice makes important changes to this piece of legislation. Consultations with Women's Rights groups are taking place. "We are cautiously optimistic. Our real success is to see our amendments in the revised version of the law", says Afghan Women's Network.

 

 

Both chambers of the Afghan parliament had already passed the new "Criminal Procedure Law," which would prohibit prosecutors from questioning any relative of an alleged abuser.
Rights groups immediately criticized the bill, saying it offers protection from prosecution to abusers of females, and would end up denying justice to victims of domestic violence and forced marriage.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton,  reacted very concerned. She urged the Afghan Government to clarify its commitment to human and women’s rights. Her official statement: EU High Rep Ashton 10 Feb2014                                                                  

 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai should refuse to sign a new criminal procedure code that would effectively deny women protection from domestic violence and forced or child marriage, said the Afghan Women's Network and Human Rights Watch before.

 “The new law is clearly in contradiction with the Afghan Constitution, and will lead to the structured violence against women and girls and limit their access to justice", said Hasina Safi, director of the AWN, the Afghan Women's Network. 

“This new law will effectively let batterers of women and girls off the hook,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Should this law go into effect, Afghan women and girls will be deprived of legal protection from relatives who assault, forcibly marry, or even sell them.”

Article 26 of the draft criminal procedure law, “Prohibition of Questioning an Individual as a Witness,” states that “The following people cannot be questioned as witnesses: … 4) Relatives of the accused.”

The new criminal procedure code poses a serious threat to critical protections for women and girls embodied in Afghanistan's ground-breaking 'Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women' (EVAW), passed by presidential decree in 2009. The EVAW law provided new criminal penalties for various abuses including rape, child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, sale of women and girls, the giving of girls to resolve disputes between families.

 

Ongoing rollback of protections for women and girls 


The proposed criminal procedure law ban on testifying against relatives follows several other efforts by the Afghan parliament to weaken already inadequate legal protections for women’s rights.

Members of parliament opposed to women’s rights have sought to repeal or weaken the EVAW law. A Wolesi Jirga debate over the EVAW law in May was halted after 15 minutes when lawmakers argued for repeal of the law, calling for elimination of the minimum marriage age for girls, abolition of shelters, and ending criminal penalties for rape. In July, a newly appointed member to the official Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission called for the EVAW law’s repeal. Although government enforcement of the EVAW law has been slow and uneven, it has been an invaluable tool for fighting violence against women.

Other troubling developments for women’s rights in 2013 included attacks on and killings of high-profile female government and police officials, and a reduction in the number of seats set aside for women on the country’s 34 provincial councils.

In November 2013, a draft law prepared by Afghan officials that would have reinstated public execution by stoning as a punishment for adultery was stopped after being leaked to the media.

At the July 2012 Tokyo Conference, international donors pledged US$16 billion in development aid funding to Afghanistan over the coming years. In return, the Afghan government committed to a set of goals that laid out in a document called the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework. One of these commitments was “Demonstrated implementation, with civil society engagement, of… the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW), including through services to victims as well as law enforcement, on an annual basis.” In advance of a follow-up meeting to the Tokyo Conference in July 2013, donors pressed for a report from the Afghan government on its enforcement of the EVAW law. The government has not yet delivered that report to donors.

AWN, the Afghan Women’s Network, is expressing deep concerns about the increasing discriminatory legislation acts.  AWN calls for decisive actions to be taken and is urging to revise the legislative process.

"This new law must be revised in accordance with the provisions of the Afghan Constitution and the International Human Rights obligations. Discrimination against women and children is a cruel act, this law is illegal", said AWN. 

"President Karzai should take a stand for Afghan women by not signing this new law until it is revised in line with the goals of the EVAW law and Afghanistan’s obligations under international law,” said Human Rights Watch.