Honour, threats prevent women from seeking legal redress
BAMYAN CITY (Pajhwok): Concerned about family honour and lacking access to judicial organs, women in central Bamyan province avoid moving courts against the continued violations of their rights.
Many females do not visit even the Women’s Affairs Department and the provincial chapter of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), fearing harsh reactions from husbands and relatives.
The Women’s Affairs Department acknowledges most of females are unable to register their complaints with it due to family restrictions. Director Aziza Ahmadi says violence against women is a worrying issue.
She confirms there is no concept of treating women equally or giving them legal or constitutional rights in the deeply conservative Afghan society. In many areas, women are considered second-rate human beings, deprived of their basic rights.
“Most of the issues involving violations of women’s rights remain unaddressed and unregistered,” notes Mrs. Ahmadi, who explains the cases registered with her department are duly processed and referred to the attorney office.
A woman hailing from Bamyan City, the provincial capital, recently eschewed reporting her problem to the department for fear of an angry response from her spouse and in-laws. She is often roughed up by her husband and deprived of her assets.
The woman complains she cannot even put on her own clothes and ornaments. “At times, my husband comes home, not to meet my day-to-day needs, but to thrash and threaten me. He never gives me money, saying he is jobless.”
A mother of two, she washes clothes of other people or peeling trees in the spring to feed her children. “I’ll have no relief even if I complain to the authorities against what is happening to me.”
She believes: “Such a step would bring me dishonour and my husband could divorce me; living under such conditions will be more difficult,” She calls divorce a stigma for a woman in her area.
Razia, a students of the Education University, hears with a disturbing frequency taunts and jabs from passers-by and boys in their private cars on their way to the university. The individuals involved in such acts do not want women to acquire higher education that can empower them in the long term.
She claims police could not control the embarrassing situation because women and girls do not complain to the authorities concerned. She calls for creating awareness in society that men and women have equal rights and command equal respect.
The Afghanistan Women’s Network (AWN) also voices concern at growing discrimination against females. Sughra Attayee, head of the AWN in Bamyan, identifies insecurity as a key issue for women, who are teased on roads, leered at in streets and derided in bazaars.
Local officials should play a proactive role in promoting awareness about women’s rights, she stresses, alleging the perpetrators of women’s rights violations often go scot-free. The AWN asks the provincial government to address the problems being faced by women.
Only five percent of women are working in government departments and 12 percent in NGOs, according to the official, views women’s participation in cultural, social, political, economic and security sectors as insufficient.
The increasing graph of violence against women and girls is a big challenge that must be coped with on a priority basis, she says. Eighty-nine cases of violence against women were registered in Bamyan last year, compared with 75 while in the first nine months of the current solar year.
Legal rights manager at the department, Safina Fahimi, says cases of violence registered this year include three murders, two injuries, as many suicides and five rape incidents.
Thirty-one beating, two underage marriage, eight marriage dissolution, one polygamy, one cheating and six insult cases were lodged with the department since March 22 (the beginning of the current solar year). Twenty cases of attempted suicide took place, resulting four deaths.
For instance, she points out, a mother of two, whose husband went to Iran for work, committed suicide through self-immolation this year due to family violence in the Dar-i-Foladi area on the outskirts of Bamyan City. “Her tormentors managed to flee; the incident could not be investigated properly.”
Women were murdered with impunity in Waras and Punjab districts, as well as the provincial capital. A woman, who was killed by her brother-in-law (husband’s brother) in Punjab, but the killer managed to flee to Iran.
AIHRC has recorded 2,600 cases of violence against women, including 190 murders, across the country in the past nine months. Its statistics show 900 of the cases pertain to mental torture, 550 to economic deprivation, 186 to molestation, 70 to physical abuse and the rest to running away from homes and divorce.
AIHRC official Qadia Yazdanparast says 51 killers were arrested while the rest have been at large for a variety of reasons. The government should bring them to justice. Lax law enforcement, adherence to primitive traditions and family pressures keep women from getting justice.
“Currently, women from different parts of the country, not aware of their rights, are being discriminated against. Government officials have been negligent, if not complicit, in crimes against women” she maintains.
Aziza Ahmadi links violence against women to poverty, lack of awareness, forced marriages and unwholesome traditions. But the department is trying to raise awareness, training 45 women each month in each district of the province.
During the 16-day campaign, she visited some of the districts and distributed mobile phone numbers of the department to enable the women to share their problems with the authorities.
Many women have to do hard labour on farms and in animal husbandry, but their revenue line the pockets of male relatives. “As long as they are not empowered economically, they will have to depend on men and continue to be subjected to violence,” she warns.
A member of women’s network, Haleema Rezaee, calls inadequate access to justice, cumbersome judicial procedures, abuse of their rights in government departments and NGO and a shortage of female lawyers some of the challenges.
“Even we don’t have a female defence lawyer in Bamyan to plead women’s cases, because in many cases women could not share their personal issues with male lawyers,” she observes.
But the gubernatorial spokesman, Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, affirms the local administration’s commitment to protecting women’s rights. The governor is personally involved in dealing with gender issues, he says.
Women employees of government departments and NGOs are currently more than 20 percent, with efforts being made to the increase their representation, he adds.
In order to control eve-teasing, the security personnel have met several times. But concrete results are yet to come about. Murder cases are being investigated but the process is agonisingly slow, the official admits.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.