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19 Mar 2017
Writer: Hasib Noori

Fight for gender equality

Good news: The Ministry of Women's Affairs has registered a record 5,000-odd cases of violence against women, and 1,300 cases have been sent to the Attorney General Office.
Bad news: Only 99 cases have reached the court. The Attorney General Office has not kept track of cases registered in its provincial offices.
Women are particularly vulnerable to violence in provinces such as Takhar, Badakhshan, Sar-e-pol, Bamyan, Badghis, Herat, Ghor, Nimroz, Nuristan and Paktia. While a majority of crimes reported to the Ministry of Women's Affairs are related to wife beating, there are also cases of alimony, divorce, murders, sexual attacks, forced marriages and other crimes.
"Thirty incidents of murder were reported from eight provinces over the last six weeks. The cause in each case was family violence," says Spogmai Wardak, MoWA's deputy minister. The seeds of domestic violence lie in the all-pervasive gender discrimination in Afghan society. Until that is addressed there is no hope of fighting violence against women in Afghanistan, the minister feels.
MoWA has provided legal assistance to 1,308 women in the capital, Kabul, and provinces, and also helped file 267 legal cases, while conducting mediation in more than 100 cases.
AIHRC or the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has a campaign in the media for the prevention of violence against women.
Belal Sidiqi, AIHRC's spokesperson, says most of the cases had occurred in the northern and western provinces.
While the Attorney General Office has cleared 99 cases, women complainants have not followed up in twice that number of cases,  says Parween Rahimi, who heads the section dealing with violence against women. The Attorney General Office has not closed these files she told Killid.
Afghanistan has a very poor record of justice delivery in cases of violence against women. Women's activist Mahmooda Taqwa says until there is strict implementation of the law and justice for women survivors of domestic violence there is no hope of change. She urges MoWA to design policies that promote gender equality and end discrimination including within the family. Girls should be given the right to study and marry whom they choose, she says.
Killed for family honour
This is far from the reality currently. Family honour is paramount, and so-called "desert" courts have time and again passed death sentences by stoning and beheading on anyone breaking the strict moral code. AIHRC has reported 119 killings in the name of honour this (Afghan calendar) year from across the country. The numbers have risen. In 2015, there were 101 cases, and the previous year, 50.
AIHRC's Sediqi says most cases have been reported from the country's north and west. "When these types of cases are registered with us, we send them to justice and judicial offices to work on them while we monitor," he says.
Nearly everywhere killings for the sake of family pride are called "honour killings". But Parween Rahimi says it is far from honourable. It is murder, she says, when a girl is killed for refusing to marry a man chosen by her family.
Mahmooda Taqwa wonders how come the killing of a person who has not done anything unethical is called "honour killing". "The girl has sought her right, but she is killed and the killing is called honour killing when it is not at all honourable," she says.
According to Mawlawi Ahmadgul Delawar in the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, all killings that take place "without court and witnesses" are illegal from the point of view of the Sharia and those who perpetrate these types of murders are in fact killers.

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