Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice (MOJ) amended a controversial provision of the draft Afghan Criminal Procedure Code – Article 26 – that would have barred relatives from testifying against each other in criminal proceedings, including in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault. President Hamid Karzai had earlier responded to concerns from Afghan’s women’s organizations about this provision by refusing to sign the Code into law unless MOJ made changes to Article 26.
The Afghan Women’s Network, with over one hundred women-led organizations, came out strongly against the provision, holding a press conference to broadcast their opposition to the bill, and then leading a public protest through the streets of downtown Kabul. Members of the Network highlighted how the law would effectively prevent the government from prosecuting cases of violence against women, embolden perpetrators of that violence, and essentially validate discrimination against women.
This is a victory for Afghan women who have been fighting for better enforcement of laws that make violence against women a crime – including rape, domestic assault, honor killings, child marriage, and baad, the practice of resolving disputes by giving away one’s daughters.
Women’s rights and freedom from violence will be even better protected if President Karzai signs the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. The Obama Administration has indicated that failure to finalize the agreement could lead to a complete pullout of US forces and the loss of billions of dollar in international aid. Afghanistan would be left vulnerable to greater influence by the Taliban, who had previously stripped women of all human rights and forced them into a state of virtual house arrest.
TAKE ACTION: Pledge with us to support Afghan women and Afghan women’s organizations. Let them know that we are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the fight for women’s and girls’ equality. And you can urge President Karzai to sign the BSA agreement. Without this agreement, the tremendous gains made by Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban will be in jeopardy.
Media Resources: Ms. Blog 2/25/14; Feminist Newswire 11/22/13, 11/27/13, 2/19/14; US Embassy 2/25/14