Women’s rights violated as draft family law gathers dust
KABUL (Pajhwok): The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and some women’s rights advocacy organizations say the draft family law prepared five years ago is yet to be approved from parliament, allowing women’s rights violations to continue.
The draft law in 210 articles has been prepared by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in July 2010 and was sent to the Ministry of Justice, which has not yet forwarded it to parliament for approval for its opposition to the bill.
The bill had been drafted with the help of Supreme Court, women’s networks, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, union of defence lawyers, the organisation for rights and democracy with the support of international centre for human rights and democratic development.
Forced marriages, under-age marriages, not paying living expenses to women and their right to education are some of the issues not properly included in the civil laws, warranting the need for such a family law, the activists say.
Dr. Aalima Aalima, political and international affairs advisor at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said lawyers and civil society activists had worked a lot preparing the draft law. Therefore, he said the Wolesi Jirga should ask the Ministry of Justice why it had delayed sending the bill to the house.
“All issues included in the family law are acceptable for us, we hope the ministry of justice will include the passing of the draft law in its agenda,” he said.
After the passing of the law, rights of women would be ensured in families and a further delay in its approval would not be in women’s favour because women’s rights situation in the country, especially in villages, was getting worse day by day, he said.
According to AIHRC, since March 2015, more than 2600 incidents of violence against women, including 190 murders, have been registered in the country while the perpetrators remained at large.
The statistics show 900 incidents of violence against women were verbal abuses and metal torture, 550 were economic violence, more than 186 were moral violence, 70 cases involved physical violence and the rest forced marriages, under-age marriages, elopement, divorce, not paying the expenditure to the women and others.
The Women’s Affairs Ministry had worked a lot drafting the bill before dispatching it to the Ministry of Justice, a professor at Kabul University and member of the establishment committee of the law, Shahla Farid, said.
Former justice minister Habibullah Ghalib had opposed the law, saying there was no need for a family law as most of the issues mentioned in the draft had already been included in the civil law, she said.
The civil law was passed in 1976 when Afghanistan was not a member of conventions supporting children and women, so there was need to amend the old law and establish a new one, she said.
She has visited the Ministry of Justice more than 10 times and discussed with officials there the urgent need for the family law. She said the ministry officials had pledged to review the law, but they were yet to check even a page of the bill, she said.
The incumbent justice minister was not a professional person and people around him were not in favour of passing the law, she said, adding that whenever she had visited the ministry to know about any development on the law, the minister would always say “the related departments are working on the draft law.”
According to Shahla Farid, the civil law of Afghanistan was copied from the civil law of Egypt and translated into Dari language. Even law experts could not explain some articles of the old law, which has 2416 articles including 156 to 267 on family issues.
Another person who played her part in drafting the family law, Fawzia Amini, said all issues in the draft law were based on women’s needs and the law was written based on current and future requirements to resolve women’s issues.
Amini said the family law was paid more attention when she was rights director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, but now she was unaware how much the law had been processed.
She said there would be no problem if the family law was approved exclusively or made part of the civil law. She added the family law was a need for society and required more improvement to be more effective.
Amini hoped all people would think positively about the draft law because it had been compared with the laws of 20 Islamic countries and took two years to be completed.
However, Abdul Majeed Ghanizada, director of civil laws and acting head of the legislation department at the Ministry of Justice, said the family law could not be approved due to some differences.
“We wanted to review the family law, but the Ministry of Justice disagreed with its provisions because the civil law has the same rules. Some amendments in the family law was another reason the ministry opposed it,” he said.
He said former justice minister Habibullah Ghalib had the same view to process the civil law based on rules given to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has been directed not to divide the civil law in separate pieces.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghan Women Network have emphasized the family law should be approved as an independent law, an idea rejected by the Supreme Court, Ghanizada said.
He said some issues needed to be shared with Afghan and Muslim world’s popular scholars for their opinions. Women’s affairs organizations have promised to hold a special programme about the family law in Egypt or Malaysia.
Some differences over the family law were discussed between officials concerned in the presence of two Wolesi Jirga members, he said.
He said the marriage age for a girl in the civil law was determined 16 years but in the family law, it had been set 18 years, which was among the points of contention.
He said some issues about polygamy and conditions being set between two sides of couples in the family law were also needed discussions.
“We promise to our cooperators that we would practically start work on the family law, we do not travel to Egypt or Malaysia but we discuss it with our own ulema to prepare it for processing because this law remained suspended for five years,” Ghanizada said.
He said they had practically begun work on the law and were studying juridical references to prevent conflicts with the Sharia law.
“We currently work from 4pm to 7pm on the family law, we discuss about different and sensitive issues, they take more time,” he said.
Once the family law was completely reviewed, representatives of ministries and relevant organs would be invited to study the law and highlight available problems.
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