This week highlights the anniversary of global initiatives from the United Nations and the Afghanistan government to eliminate violence against women, but the reality for women within Afghanistan does not live up to UN goals.
Violence and women: the global case
July 31 is World Day Against Trafficking. It is an official United Nations observance day, established to highlight the existence of human trafficking globally and the importance of ending it.
According to data from the United Nations, children comprise about a third of all human trafficking victims across the globe, with women and girls making up approximately 71 percent of human trafficking victims.
The UN has continued its work to tackle human trafficking by facilitating involvement in combating the global exploitation from governments. In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Person, which made a call to integrate the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s programs.
This culminated in the establishment of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking. Additional initiatives to end trafficking against women and children globally has also led to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which was adopted in September 2015.
One of the seventeen agendas was to ensure a greater degree of quality and opportunity for women globally.
“Realizing gender equality and empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to programs across all of the Goals and targets.” the UN reported in the resolution. “All forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls will be eliminated, including through the engagement of men and boys. The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Agenda is crucial.”
Afghanistan: a national case
August 1 marks the eighth anniversary of Afghanistan’s Law on Elimination of Violence of Women (EVAW). Despite being passed in 2009, the law has remained a source of contention and has also generated resistance from members of Afghanistan’s parliament, according to the Human Rights Watch’s 2017 World Report.
Under EVAW, sexual assault, forced prostitution, causing injury or disability, beating, selling or buying women for the purpose or supposed purpose of marriage, forced or underage marriage, harassment or persecution and forced labor are categorized as violence against women.
The role that Afghanistan’s government can play in the elimination of violence and trafficking against women shouldn’t be underestimated, especially given the level of governmental involvement that the UN is asking from individual nations.
“We acknowledge the essential role of national parliaments through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of our commitments.” the UN stressed in their 2015 resolution.
The fifth goal in the Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve gender equality and gender equal opportunities. This includes the elimination of “all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
“Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”
Gaps between goals and implementation
However, as reported by the World Report, there has been resistance within the Afghanistan government against the law. As of November 2016, the draft amendments to the law were still being considered by the Commission on Women, Civil Society and Human Rights.
In December 2015, shortly after the establishment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Afghanistan’s Supreme Court issued a judicial rule banning the imprisonment of women for running away from their families, but the restriction was limited to cases where the woman went to a medical provider, the police, or the home of a close male relative.
While this piece of legislation was an important step forward towards ensuring that women within Afghanistan are able to leave abusive or dangerous situations, it limits a woman’s ability to legally take recourse and inhibits her right to safety.
And while Article Two of the EVAW recognizes one of the law’s objectives as “maintaining family integrity and fighting against customs, traditions and practices which contradict Islamic Sharia and cause violence against women,” the 2015 judicial rule essentially imposed a cultural custom on women which could serve to work against the essential goals of the law.
As of November 2016, the Afghani government had not yet finalized its budget for the implementation plan of the National Action Plan for Women Peace and Security, which falls under the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 – according to the 2017 World Report.
The plan, passed in June 2016, recognizes and encourages the role of women in leadership and peacemaking as integral to building stable governments and societies. But despite the Afghanistan government’s announcement that they had finalized the implementation plan, the lack of a budget to fund the initiative highlights the reality of the gap between plan and process within Afghanistan, in terms of eliminating violence against women.