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Violence against women: UN urges govt to ensure speedy justice

By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in its report said that due to limited access to judicial system, women victim of domestic violence inevitably used traditional mediation rather than court adjudication in resolving their cases.

The report titled “Justice through the Eyes of Afghan Women” tells about prosecuting of violence cases against women through mediations in legal institutions and nongovernmental organizations. The Survey covered around 110 women and girls who experienced the domestic violence.

Speaking at a joint press conference here in Kabul, the United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said that according to the survey, 65 percent of the cases were addressed through mediations and only five percent of the criminal cases were prosecuted by judiciary which resulted in imprisonment and penalty of the perpetrators.

He said that women whose cases were mediated believed that it offers better way to obtain redress of a civil nature, such as divorce, custody settlements or living in a safe environment rather than seeking criminal sanctions, fearing the negative economic and social consequences they might generate for them and their families.

The report documented that mediation was conducted most frequently, even though by legal law institutions 47% follows by the traditional dispute resolution mechanism by 22%, nongovernmental organizations 17% and other bodies like police officers and clerics 15%, he underlined.

According to him, interviews with women and girls subjected to violence also revealed negative perception of the justice system because week management, unprofessional employees and corruption prevent women to continue the criminal prosecution of perpetrators in the relevant judicial bodies.

“However, considerable progress has been observed in the legal protection of women in Afghanistan, but still significant gaps remained to be addressed to enable women to access justice and legal remedies in accordance with international human rights standards,” he said, adding that the government should take necessary action based on international laws and protect women’s rights.

Special Representative for UN Secretary General for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said that as demands for justice through mediation in Afghanistan increase, the government should ensure mediation practices fully protect the rights of victims, adding that  mediation of violence against women cases require support and monitoring so that they are guided by principles of consent, safety, impartiality and inclusivity.

He stressed that major crimes of violence against women had to be prosecuted and adjudicated through the criminal justice process and not mediated, in accordance with Afghan laws and the country’s international human rights obligations.

Expressing concerns over women’s rights situation, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, said that Afghan women witnessed some achievement in the past 14 years but due to immunity of perpetrators the achievements are reversible.

She said that provision of health services, education, access to justice system, public awareness, and creating job opportunities could ensure women’s rights are protected in the country. The government should try its best to eliminate violence against women.

The report notes that the existing legal framework and court adjudication process in Afghanistan provides limited options to women who are prone to or facing violence.

UNAMA urged the Afghan government and international partners to provide accountably and improve protection of women and girls from violence in accordance with domestic laws and international human rights standards.

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