New Afghan Criminal Code legalises complicity to domestic violence – Appeal to President Karzai

 

President ‘deaf to pleadings of women’s groups’

Jalal Foundation and its network strongly condemn the adoption of the provision in the new Revised Criminal Code that prohibits relatives of accused criminals from serving as witnesses during investigations and trials.

We are also deeply disappointed with the Parliament for playing deaf to the pleadings of women’s groups to exclude this deleterious provision from the final version of the Code.  It is a painful manifestation of their callousness to the plight of millions of Afghan women and children who have to put up with abuses and violence from family members 24/7 throughout their lifetime. How can these honorable leaders turn their backs against their constituents who elected them to represent their interest and protect their rights?  This is worse than treason.

In the eyes of the people, fundamentalists and the government are now engaged in a happy collusion to claw back the gains on women’s rights that were generated during the past 13 years.  While reports of violence against women (VAW) have increased by 28 percent in 2013,[1] and although there is a general apprehension that such increase would further soar after the departure of international security forces and the reduction of foreign assistance in the country, the Parliament still chose to aggravate the woes of the women population instead of reassuring them of government’s protection and support.  We feel abandoned and betrayed.

This provision of the new Revised Criminal Code practically screams at victims of domestic violence to shut up because they will get no support from family members and the State.  This is tantamount to driving victims to commit self-immolation and suicide, an act that is listed as unlawful under the decree on the elimination of violence against women.  Such provision of the Revised Criminal Code also equates to legalization of complicity among family members to foment violence towards its helpless members.  It is immoral, un-Islamic, and inconsistent with the guarantees of equal rights and protection enshrined in the Constitution.  It looks like a prelude to the many more anti-women laws that this institution is likely to churn out in the days to come.

Local studies show that the most number of VAW perpetrators in Afghanistan are relatives of the victims.  With the provision of the Revised Criminal Code banning the testimonies of relatives against each other, Afghan homes would inevitably evolve as the most unsafe place to live for Afghan women.   It gives offenders greater ammunition to escape punishment and it legitimizes impunity to commit domestic violence.

We call upon President Hamid Karzai to desist from signing this Revised Criminal Code into a law and to veto such provision that will nullify all his achievements on women’s rights.  Do not let this provision become an ugly legacy for which you will be blamed and shamed even by the many generations to come. We also call upon the international community, global women’s rights activists, and human rights bodies to immediately express their opposition to this provision.  Women, girls, students, boys and men who value the Afghan tradition of family solidarity and harmony should all lobby with the President to desist from signing it.

Mr. President, you have nothing more to lose and everything to gain at this point in time.  Allow us to remember you as a leader who used the last days of your administration to protect our rights. You owe it to us, to yourself, and the generations to come.