Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday encouraged [press release] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [official website] to refuse to sign a law passed by parliament that they say would deny women protection from domestic violence and forced marriage. Article 26 of the proposed criminal procedure law prohibits authorities from speaking with relatives of criminal defendants. In the case of domestic abuse, HRW claims it may be more difficult for women to seek justice if the law goes into effect. The law is expected to reach Karzai for signature in the next two weeks.
Afghanistan has been the target of much criticism [JURIST op-ed] regarding human rights issues, including women's rights. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official websites] released a study [JURIST report] in December that raised concern over the treatment of women in the country. The report states there was an increase of reported acts of violence against women to the Afghan authorities in the past year, but prosecutions and convictions under the landmark Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) [text, PDF] law remained low and most cases were settled through mediation. Reported incidents of forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape all increased by 28 percent, but the indictments under EVAW only increased by 2 percent. In November the HRW reported the Afghanistan Justice Ministry proposed [JURIST report] new provisions to the nation's penal code that allow for stoning as punishment for adultery.