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The Killid Group, October 8, 2014

Culture of impunity behind rape

In 40 percent of cases the accused were not even investigated, indicating the gross failure of the justice system to establish guilt and redress the victim's grievance

A non-governmental group, New Afghanistan Women Association (NAWA), says crimes against women and children have increased because of continued official indifference and a law enforcement system that looks the other way to help the perpetrators.

NAWA’s new research in six provinces – Kunduz, Jowzjan, Herat, Balkh, Takhar and Sar-i-Pul – shows a 30 percent increase in rape cases. Shafiqa Habibi, director of the non-governmental women’s group, says in most cases the abusers were “powerful individuals, commanders and irresponsible gunmen” or the relatives of the victims. “They don’t fear punishment.”

Rape is highly stigmatised in the country; women rarely report it. Even in the Paghman case, Aug 22, when four women were raped in front of their male relatives, the family did not immediately report the sexual assault. They initially told the police that the men wearing Afghan police uniforms and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles had stopped their cars and stolen some of their property.

While justice was speedily handed down in the Paghman case – five of the six accused were sentenced to death in a trial that lasted two and a half hours – Habibi blames the authorities for the rising sexual violence against women. Even preachers never condemn rape from mosques or seek to educate the public about the gross violation of a woman’s body, she says.

In most cases victims suffer in silence specially when members of the family – a brother or father, uncle or cousin – are involved. A woman who dares to complain and publicise the crime could be punished for having sex outside marriage or bringing dishonour.

Lawlessness prevails

NAWA, which investigated 245 rape incidents reported between January and June this year, has found that the victims knew their abusers in 18 percent. “It may be that the men were sexual deviants or had a personal score to settle with the family, and took it out on the hapless girl or woman,” says Habibi.

A non-governmental group, New Afghanistan Women Association (NAWA), says crimes against women and children have increased because of continued official indifference and a law enforcement system that looks the other way to help the perpetrators.
NAWA’s new research in six provinces – Kunduz, Jowzjan, Herat, Balkh, Takhar and Sar-i-Pul – shows a 30 percent increase in rape cases. Shafiqa Habibi, director of the non-governmental women’s group, says in most cases the abusers were “powerful individuals, commanders and irresponsible gunmen” or the relatives of the victims. “They don’t fear punishment.”
The Killid Group, Oct. 8, 2014

Sixty-five cases involved children between the ages of 6 and 13. “At least 25 died as a result … immediately or in the hospital,” says NAWA’s head. Researchers conducted 2,000 interviews, filling up detailed questionnaires. The majority of the interviewees were women, and literate. Sixty three percent confirmed, “Rape has taken place in their province”.

According to Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs Syeda Muzhgan Mustafawi, only eight rape survivors have approached the courts for justice this year. “Most victims do not divulge the crime,” she says. “Even those who appeal to us are scared to reveal their names, they fear the abusers. We are trying to locate the survivors, to help them and punish the abusers.”

In June last year the Independent Media Consortium (IMC) Productions – Killid is a partner – investigated the reasons behind the disappointingly low rate of convictions even though more and more women were coming forward to report cases of violence by husbands and members of the family.

Abuse has spiraled since 2011. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has taken the Ministry of Women’s Affairs figures to show that while 211 rape cases were reported from 2002 to 2010, the number shot up to 45 in 2011, and 100 in the subsequent year.

In 40 percent of cases the accused were not even investigated, indicating the gross failure of the justice system to establish guilt and redress the victim's grievance. In cases where the police have probed the crime, the accused have "bribed" their way out of trouble.

Eng. Nafisa Azimi, a member of the parliamentary Women's Affairs Commission, told IMC the failure to prosecute the accused was established as a reason for the rise in cases of violence against women in a 2012 study by AIHRC.

Controversial law

Latifa Sultani, women’s rights programme coordinator of AIHRC, who was interviewed, said, “The lack of decisive reaction against the culprits and perpetrators of mentioned violence can be the reason for murder of women as well as the sexual aggression on them.”

Sultani told IMC, “Decisive action has not been taken against the culprits. Some have fled; others pay the bribe (allegedly demanded by law authorities) and get away." The situation in remote areas is much worse.

So-called honour killings have increased with the guilty hiding behind the controversial Article 398 of the Afghanistan Criminal Code that makes it legitimate for a husband to kill or wound his wife if he has proof of her infidelity. He cannot be tried for murder but can be awarded a maximum sentence of two years.

AIHRC’s Sultani told IMC there were people in the government who have killed their wives knowing they cannot be touched. She said she could not identify either the murderers or their families in case they took revenge. "Ours is a patriarchal society. In some parts of Afghanistan there are judges who don't believe women should have rights," she observed.

In the opinion of judge Parwin Rahimi, head of the women's rights and support at AIHRC, people who are supported by the powerful carried out most of the killings. “Let their names be handed over to the president in anonymous letters,” she told IMC. None of that happened.

Now women’s rights activists want the new government to fight the culture of exemption, and punish the guilty in order to deter others.

Category: Women, HR Violations - Views: 6992