Both houses of the Afghan Parliament have voted to pass an act that would prohibit relatives from testifying against a criminal defendant in a judicial proceeding. If signed by President Hamid Karzai, the proposed change to the Afghan criminal code would prevent family members from testifying as victims or witnesses in all criminal cases, including domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault cases. The act would also ban children and doctors – including those who may have examined victims – from testifying against the accused.

“It is a travesty this is happening,” said Manizha Naderi, Executive Director of Women for Afghan Women, which runs over two dozen shelters in 10 provinces for Afghanistan for women and girls who have been victims of violence. “It will make it impossible to prosecute cases of violence against women.”

Women for Afghan Women called on the United States “which has promised not to abandon the women of Afghanistan” and the larger international community “to shout out loud and clear their refusal to accept this assault on women’s rights.”

Last December, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released their annual report on violence against women in Afghanistan, finding that there was a 28 percent increase in reports of violence against women from 2012 to 2013 , but only 17 percent of those were prosecuted under the country’s Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) – a small 2 percent increase from 2012.

At the launch of the UNAMA-OHCHR report, Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Human Rights Unit at UNAMA and OHCHR representative, told reporters, “Police, prosecutors and courts, in our view, need increased resources and technical and political support and direction from the highest levels of Government to deal adequately with the increase in reporting and registration of cases of violence against women documented in this report.”

Media Resources: Women for Afghan Women Press Release, 2/5/14; The Guardian, 2/4/14; Feminist Newswire, 12/9/13; UN News Centre, 12/8/13

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