No justice and security for women


"Nearly two years on, discrimination, violence, and insecurity remain rife, despite promises by world leaders, including President Bush and US Secretary of Sate Colin Powell, that the war in Afghanistan would bring liberation for women," the organization emphasized.

Observations of an international NGO worker told AI:

"During the Taleban era if a woman went to market and showed an inch of flesh she would have been flogged, now she's raped."

  Amnesty International, 6 October 2003

The new report "Afghanistan: No one listens to us and no one treats us a human beings. Justice denied to women" documents Afghan women's concerns about widespread domestic violence, forced marriage, and rape by armed groups. In some cases underage girls as young as eight years old are married to much older men.

"This situation is unacceptable and calls for urgent action," Amnesty International said.

Two years after the ending of the Taleban regime, the international community and the Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA), led by President Hamid Karzai, have proved unable to protect women. Amnesty International is gravely concerned by the extent of violence faced by women and girls in Afghanistan. The risk of rape and sexual violence by members of armed factions and former combatants is still high. Forced marriage, particularly of girl children, and violence against women in the family are widespread in many areas of the country. These crimes of violence continue with the active support or passive complicity of state agents, armed groups, families and communities. This continuing violence against women in Afghanistan causes untold suffering and denies women their fundamental human rights.

  Amnesty International, 6 October 2003
Full text

The report also highlights how women in Afghanistan have no recourse to justice. Despite the lifting of rules limiting their freedom of movement, women are prevented from seeking redress because of barriers in society and in the community in many areas. Even when a woman is able to approach the police or the courts, she faces extreme discrimination.

"The current criminal justice system is simply unwilling or unable to address issues of violence against women," the organization continued. "At the moment it is more likely to violate the rights of women than to protect and uphold their rights."

The new report outlines a number of immediate steps the Afghan government and international community should take to begin to deliver on its promise of ensuring justice for the women of Afghanistan. Foremost is the provision of security through an expansion of an international peace keeping force outside Kabul to create an environment in which the rule of law can be established.

"Women's rights protections cannot be meaningfully established without the rule of law."

The organization further calls on the international community to coordinate efforts to integrate the protection of women's rights into the reconstruction of police, legal reforms, and the establishment of courts.

Parts of the AI report:

Abuses perpetrated by armed groups against women and girls since the fall of the Taleban government in November 2001 include rape, abduction, and forced and underage marriage. The exact extent and prevalence of such abuses remains unclear owing to the reluctance of most victims to speak out and the limited capacity for monitoring. However, the opening of regional offices of the AIHRC is beginning to increase the amount of available information about such violence. The initial work by the AIHRC in this area indicates that the abuse of women by armed groups is so common that the body's research department has decided to maintain a separate category in its files for such incidents.

Amnesty International's research indicates a systematic pattern of abuse against women and girls in Mazar-e Sharif, and incidence of abuse in both Nangarhar and Bamiyan provinces. Human Rights Watch has reported on the occurrence of rape of women, girls and boys in southeast Afghanistan, including in Laghman, Ghazni, Gardez and Nangarhar provinces, and in Paghman district of Kabul province.

Incidents reported to Amnesty International included the rape of four girls by members of an armed group. The youngest, aged 12, was unconscious as a result of her injuries when brought to hospital by her parents. UNAMA has investigated a number of incidents of abuse of women and girls by members of armed groups, including incidence of forced marriage of girls as young as 12.

"Jamila", aged 16, interviewed by Amnesty International, and serving a three-year sentence for running away from home, had been to court nine times. She had been forced to marry an 85-year-old man at the age of nine, and had run away with a lover when her situation became intolerable.

"Ziba", aged only 14, was sentenced to three years in prison for running away from home. She had been abused by the cousin she had been forced to marry when she was 13.

Physical examination of women for virginity is carried out on many women detainees in Herat, Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. The examination is carried out by medical forensic specialists, who are generally men. One young woman reported being tested against her will. Other women have little understanding of the process. Women may also be subjected to more than one test, if the outcome is doubtful. The process appears to be based on examining the hymen to establish whether it is intact.. Amnesty International considers such procedures as having no place as evidence in criminal proceedings. Medical specialists consider the state of the hymen as an unreliable indicator of virginity.

No safeguards are in place to protect women from sexual abuse while in police custody and in detention. No procedures exist for women to safely report abuse in custody. Amnesty International has received unconfirmed reports of sexual abuse of women prisoners in official detention centres in Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul. In Herat in early 2003, a riot by women prisoners was alleged to have been a response to sexual abuse by staff. Assaults by staff and incidents of members of armed factions being allowed to abuse women prisoners were reported in Mazar-e Sharif. Amnesty International is also concerned that safeguards are not in place to protect women in police custody.

Amnesty International was informed that when women are arrested for adultery in Jalalabad, they face the risk of sexual abuse and transfer to different police stations where they are repeatedly abused. One woman told Amnesty International: "If the commanders arrest a girl in a case of adultery when her case is going to the first district police station, they are sexually abusing her saying you had relations with a man so you should with us also. Then they transfer the woman from station to station." This case also highlights increased vulnerability to abuse owing to the involvement in some cases of commanders or members of armed factions with no formal status in the criminal justice system. The system in certain areas such as Jalalabad appears to be permeated by abuse. The general absence of oversight, accountability and police training contributes to the vulnerability of women in custody.

For the full text of the report, please go to:

"Afghanistan: No one listens to us and no one treats us as human beings. Justice denied to women"

Other recent reports on Afghanistan by Amnesty International:

"Afghanistan: Re-establishing the rule of law"

"Afghanistan: Crumbling prison system desperately in need of repair"

"Afghanistan: Out of sight, out of mind: The fate of the Afghan returnees"

"Afghanistan: Police reconstruction essential for the protection of human rights"

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