The roll back of women’s rights in Afghanistan, already off to a strong start ahead of the troop withdrawal, continues apace as conservatives in parliament signal the Taliban their readiness to deal. Both houses of the Afghan parliament have just passed a law that virtually provides impunity to those who engage in such violations of women’s human rights as domestic violence, forced and/or child marriage, and sales of children by preventing relatives of the assailant who are witnesses to these crimes from testifying in court, even voluntarily.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW) asks President Karzai not to sign the law, which eviscerates the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women that he signed in 2009. That law criminalized for the first time many acts against women, including rape and child/forced marriage. Although weakly enforced, it has provided a legal basis for protection of women without which there is no rule of law in Afghanistan. Without which, there is rule of barbarians.
WAW’s 28 Family Guidance Centers, shelters, halfway houses and other centers in 10 provinces of Afghanistan have served about 10,000 women and girls, most of whom have been victims of a long list of gender-based acts that violate every convention in the civilized world on women’s and child rights. Women seeking shelter and protection at these facilities and those run by other women’s human rights NGOs include victims whose in-laws, husbands, fathers, and sons have broken their arms and legs, chopped off lips, tongues and noses, pulled out fingernails, sold them, stabbed them and left them for dead.
Silencing witnesses, who include not only relatives of the accused but physicians who have examined the victim, does far more than allow these acts to occur with impunity. It encourages them to take place. It is the strongest evidence to date that the subjugation of women to tyranny will be ok when the tyrants arrive in force in Afghanistan.
In addition to urging President Karzai not to sign the law, WAW urges the presidential candidates to take a position on the issue as an indication of their commitment to Afghan women’s rights. Above all, we ask people and governments in the developed world who value justice, and especially the United States government, which has promised not to abandon the women of Afghanistan, to shout out loud and clear their refusal to accept this assault on women’s rights.
WAW is determined to take further action ensuring that this law does not pass.
Please renew the commitment of our country not to abandon the women of Afghanistan.