President Karzai’s pen is poised to approve a revision to Afghanistan’s Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) passed by Parliament that will prove catastrophic for the ability to Afghan women and girls to seek justice when family members commit acts of violence against them. His signature could come within a week’s time.
The deeply flawed Article 26 (clauses 4 and 6) of the CPC prohibits the relatives of an accused individual from acting as witnesses during a criminal prosecution, including cases of violence against women. This would mean that testimonies of relatives witnessing the rape of a family member or an honor killing will not be taken into consideration – a major concern where violence, including domestic violence and forced or child marriage, is predominantly perpetrated and/or witnessed by family members.
If President Karzai approves the new law, responding to violence against women will become even more challenging, as police and judicial authorities will be discouraged from questioning relatives of the accused and women will be further dissuaded from reporting incidences of violence in a country where the rate of violence against women already persists at a shockingly high rate and reached record levels in 2013.
[pullquote text=”If President Karzai approves the new law, responding to violence against women will become even more challenging.”]The draft law approved by the Afghan Parliament and currently awaiting the final signature of President Karzai is the latest frightening manifestation of a rapidly accelerating rollback of women’s human rights in Afghanistan.
Afghan women have worked for years against incredible odds to protect and advance their human rights. And unfortunately, the odds are only stacking up: the reduction of the quota for women in the Afghan parliament, well-documented threats to female Members of Parliament and government officials, targeted killing of women’s human rights defenders and female police officers, and the reconsideration of stoning as a punishment for adultery are just few examples of the grave threats against women’s rights taking place in Afghanistan. The proposed CPC revision is another addition to the relentless series of setbacks for women’s rights.
If signed by the president, the bill would mean that justice would be evaded for countless women and girls, including Gul, a child bride who was tortured in a basement for six months after her arranged marriage. According to a statement by the Afghan Women’s Network, “such laws will lead to the structured violence against women and furthermore will limit their access to justice.” This law would make it impossible for Gul and many other women to demand justice against their abusers.
The safety and security of women and girls is a fundamental human right that must be upheld and one that is essential to the future stability and prosperity of Afghanistan.
President Karzai must not only reject the new law, but ensure that any new amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code strengthen Afghanistan’s ability to meet its international human rights obligations, including preventing and punishing violence against women.
Furthermore, President Karzai should take all necessary measures to fully and effectively implement the 2009 Elimination Against Violence Women law throughout the country.
Don’t stand silent as President Karzai puts his signature on this destructive new law. Take action with Amnesty International and tell President Karzai that living free from violence is a human right and that he must reject the revised Criminal Procedure Code. The women of Afghanistan will not accept impunity for violence committed against them and neither should their president.