Close Call

A narrow miss for Afghan victims of domestic violence.  Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai took an important step in the right direction.  He decided to veto proposed legislation that would have prohibited relatives of those accused of domestic violence from testifying against their family members. This dangerous provision, which passed through the parliament, would have made it next to impossible to convict any perpetrator of domestic violence since the majority of these abuses happen within the confines of the home.

In the United States, where there is much more progressive legislation safeguarding women’s rights and criminalizing domestic violence, it is still difficult to have women come forward and successfully prosecute their attackers.  Imagine what it must feel like to be a battered woman in a country where the laws are made to protect the aggressor?

The proposed legislation had spurred protests within Afghanistan and drew criticism from international organizations for being a step backwards and further committing victims of domestic violence to no hope of justice.  Already, too few women are stepping forward.  The recent uptick in women reporting violence sadly hasn’t correlated with an increase in prosecutions.

What is disturbing is that the proposed legislation passed through the parliament and sat on the president’s desk with the very real potential of bolstering a system that already fails its women.  In 2009, the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) act was passed in the country which criminalized domestic violence, underage or forced marriages, the practice of “baad” or giving girls in marriage to settle debts or disputes.  Some strides have been made since the law was instituted but the rights of Afghan women seem to teeter on the edge, always close to being stripped away again.

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