Afghan women denied justice over violence

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REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

KABUL (Reuters) – A law meant to protect Afghan women from violence is being undermined by authorities who routinely refer even serious criminal cases to traditional mediation councils that fail to protect victims, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law, passed in 2009, was a centrepiece of efforts to improve protection for Afghan women, who suffer widespread violence in one of the worst countries in the world to be born female.

But its effectiveness has been weakened by continued reliance on mediation by local elders to resolve violent crime.

“The wide use of mediation when a woman or girl has been beaten, mutilated or murdered, or when she has been the victim of that awful concept of ‘honour killing’, normalises such violence and makes it much more likely to recur,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In many remote parts of Afghanistan, where the formal legal system has no sway, mediation is the only form of justice, but the UN report focused on cases reported to the authorities.

Improving the situation of women in Afghanistan has been a priority for Western donors, who have pumped billions of dollars into the country.

But more than 17 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, the report underlines the still-dire situation facing many women in Afghanistan, which ranks near the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index.

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