Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, A Small Law Change With Large Effects On The Treatment of Domestic Violence

Added later:  You can sign a petition addressed to president Hamid Karzai here.

The Guardian reports on this:

A new Afghan law will allow men to attack their wives, children and sisters without fear of judicial punishment, undoing years of slow progress in tackling violence in a country blighted by so-called "honour" killings, forced marriage and vicious domestic abuse.
The small but significant change to Afghanistan's criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.
"It is a travesty this is happening," said Manizha Naderi, director of the charity and campaign group Women for Afghan Women. "It will make it impossible to prosecute cases of violence against women … The most vulnerable people won't get justice now."
Under the new law, prosecutors could never come to court with cases like that of Sahar Gul, a child bride whose in-laws chained her in a basement and starved, burned and whipped her when she refused to work as a prostitute for them. Women like 31-year-old Sitara, whose nose and lips were sliced off by her husband at the end of last year, could never take the stand against their attackers.
"Honour" killings by fathers and brothers who disapprove of a woman's behaviour would be almost impossible to punish. Forced marriage and the sale or trading of daughters to end feuds or settle debt would also be largely beyond the control of the law in a country where the prosecution of abuse is already rare.
It is common in western legal systems to excuse people from testimony that might incriminate their spouse. But it is a very narrow exception, with little resemblance to the blanket ban planned in Afghanistan.

It's difficult to get a good overview of the situation of women in Afghanistan now and ten years ago.  There are positive changes and then there are these backlashes by the conservatives factions.

The real question now is whether Hamid Karzai will sign the law or not.  That looks unlikely to me, given the rise of conservative forces and sentiments and the best private strategies of Karzai himself when the occupying forces leave.  But I very much hope I am wrong and if writing about this here increases international attention by even a minute amount, then it's worth writing about it.