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EU condemns Afghan law barring abused women from giving evidence

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 11 Feb 2014 06:02 PM
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Women arrive for treatment at a mobile clinic, provided by the Afghan Family Guidance Association (AFGA), in Kabu., Picture December 17, 2013, REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The European Union (EU) has condemned a draft law recently approved by the Afghan parliament, saying it would deny justice to victims of domestic violence, forced marriage and child abuse.

New legislation that bars relatives from testifying against each other, making it virtually impossible for abused women and children to accuse a family member, is awaiting President Hamid Karzai’s signature. Unless he vetoes it within 15 days it automatically becomes law.

"I am very concerned that this new law would restrict prosecutions for domestic violence and child abuse in Afghanistan,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

 “If the draft law is passed, it could be used to stop the relatives of alleged abusers from appearing as prosecution witnesses in court.”

Ashton called the draft law a “serious backward step” in the struggle for Afghan women’s rights and urged the Afghan government to amend it.

Canada also came forward to condemn the law earlier this month, when Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich expressed “deep concern” about it.  

"If adopted, this legislation could seriously hamper the investigation of crimes - particularly those against Afghan women and girls, including sexual and domestic violence and child, early and forced marriage - in which the accused is a relative," she said.

Afghan women have made progress in the fight for their fundamental rights since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but those rights are being eroded as foreign troops carry out a phased withdrawal due to be completed at end-year.

Restoring women's rights after the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition was cited as one of the main objectives of the war in 2001.

Under the Taliban, women were forced to wear the burqa, a head-to-toe robe, and were barred from leaving their home unless escorted by a male relative. Schools for girls were shut down.

 Violent crime against women in Afghanistan became increasingly brutal in 2013 and rose to record levels, according to Sima Samar, the head of the country’s human rights commission. 

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