Call for tougher laws on rape
KABUL, 8 July 2009 (IRIN) - Rapists in Afghanistan
too often get away with their crime, whilst rape
victims lack access to justice and experience stigma
and shame, according to a report by the Office of the
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“In some areas, alleged or convicted rapists are,
or have links to, powerful commanders, members of
illegal armed groups, or criminal gangs, as well as
powerful individuals whose influence protects them
from arrest and prosecution,” said the report entitled
Silence is Violence, launched in Kabul on 8 July.
“Women and girls are at risk of rape in their
homes, their communities and in detention facilities,”
Norah Niland, the OHCHR representative in
Afghanistan, said shame and stigma were attached to
rape victims rather than to the perpetrators.
Rapists have often managed to evade prosecution and
punishment because Afghan law, the penal code and
other civil laws lack clarity on the crime.
“There is an urgent need to criminalize rape in
Afghan laws,” said Niland who also heads the human
rights unit of the UN Assistance Mission in
Some traditional practices also serve to blur rape
as a crime. Inter-clan or inter-family disputes are
sometimes eased or resolved by a suspected rapist
being married off to his victim as a form of social
`Baad’, the practice of handing over a girl from
one’s own family to placate an aggrieved party, could
provide cover for rapists: The suspected rapist or his
family clears his alleged crime by giving a girl to
one of the sons of the victim’s family.
More importantly, the justice system appears to be
“When a victim of rape goes to the police for
justice, the police rape her again and say ‘she is a
whore’ but they never say `whore’ to a rapist,” said
Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human
Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Women in Afghanistan are subject to numerous other
forms of physical and psychological violence apart
from rape or sexual violence, and are frequently
deprived of their basic human rights, according to the
OHCHR report, which also said attitudes to rape need
“There is a dramatic and urgent need for the
government of Afghanistan and society to question
attitudes to rape, the larger problem of violence
against women, and their complicity in a crime that
destroys the life of numerous victims,” said the
Shabana Azmi, an Indian actress and social activist
who attended the report’s launch in Kabul, said
Afghanistan’s high maternal mortality rate, female
illiteracy and endemic violence against women were
unacceptable and inexcusable.
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[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]