Global Resources

Harmful traditional practices and implementation of the law on elimination of violence against women in Afghanistan

Publisher: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Publication Date: Dec 2010
In August 2009, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan enacted the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW law), which seeks to eliminate customs, traditions and practices that cause violence against women contrary to the religion of Islam. Among other harmful practices, this law prohibits the selling or buying of women for marriage, forced marriage, marriage before the legal age, forced isolation, forcing women to commit self-immolation, as well as denying women their rights to education, work and access to health services. This report is based on extensive research and interviews carried out in 2010 with women, men, government authorities, religious leaders, women’s rights and civil society activists, and community groups in 29 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. It documents particular customary practices that violate the rights of women and girls throughout the country, describes the Government's response to these practices, and makes recommendations to end them. Researchers found that harmful practices are pervasive, occurring to varying degrees in all communities, both urban and rural, and among all ethnic groups. They also found that such practices are further entrenched by the Government’s inability to fully protect the rights of women and girls. The report highlights the need to expedite implementation of the EVAW law, which criminalises many harmful traditional practices. The authors note that most harmful traditional practices are both crimes under Afghan law and inconsistent with Sharia law. The role of religious leaders, community elders and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms in both perpetuating and eliminating harmful practices is also highlighted.

The report presents findings on community perceptions of harmful practices to better inform the design and delivery of measures by the Government, religious leaders, communities and international donors to end such practices. Among the key findings are the following:
  • The Government of Afghanistan at the highest levels, including the President, should continue to publicly emphasise that promotion and protection of women’s rights are an integral part and main priority of peace, reintegration and reconciliation throughout Afghanistan, and a central pillar of the country’s political, economic, and security strategies.
  • The Government should expedite implementation of the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, in particular a national strategy to implement the EVAW law.
  • As an immediate step, the President could by decree release from detention any woman or girl arrested for “running away”, which is not a crime under Afghan law (usually women who run away are charged with intention to commit 'zina', or sexual intercourse outside of marriage).