Editor’s note: Legislation to outlaw child marriage and the tradition of ba’ad, or exchanging girls to settle debts and disputes, has created a backlash among religious conservatives in parliament who say it is against Islam. Our writer discusses the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act, whose passage was blocked on May 18th. Islamic students held more protests against the act in Kabul last week.
The legislative draft of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law that was proposed was not all bad. Some of the proposals favoring women and children were good.
The legislation’s advocates in civil society and in the Human Rights Commission were trying to get the law passed by the Parliament because even though we have it on paper (as a Presidential Decree) and it has been gazetted by our Ministry of Justice, the implementation is very, very, very weak.
All the donors inside Afghanistan have tried hard to help with implementation of the law establishing options like Family Response Units within the police stations. These are led by women police so that females can come easily and report whatever violence they experienced inside their families or neighborhoods.
But the offices within the police stations had their own problems. A woman would have to cross the male corridors to reach that family unit. This was a degrading thing for a women who faced violence and wanted to report it.
Secondly, the capacity of the women police is very low. They were recruited to fill the gaps, and none of them were qualified or trained in all the laws to become aware of the legal procedures involved in dealing with victims of violence.
I do not want to be cynical, but Fawzia Koofi, a Minister of Parliament who is a nominee for presidential candidate next year, has been behind some of these efforts just to collect more women votes for herself.
When it comes to the enforcement of laws, all the politicians step back from helping to implement them properly.
Badkhstan (where Koofi is from) is one of the worst provinces for child marriages, forced marriages, and ba’ad. In this—her own province—she may not be able to control it.
Most of the time the warlords and politicians are the worst violators of our laws.
I am waiting for an election that provides us with “real leaders” and “people’s representatives” who are true to themselves and to their land. Because if they do not want these things for themselves, they will not want them for their country’s daughters and wives.
I am keeping my fingers crossed as usual.
Afghans chant slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May, 22, 2013. More than 200 male students protested in front of Kabul University on Wednesday against a decree, which includes a ban on child marriage and forced marriage, making domestic violence a crime and saying that rape victims cannot be prosecuted for adultery. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)