Integration of the Human Rights of Women and a Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Addendum. Mission to Afghanistan

This report discusses the situation of violence against women in Afghanistan as of 2006. Yakin Ertürk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, reports that the situation of women is dramatic and severe violence against them all-pervasive. Four factors underlie women’s vulnerability and the perpetuation of violence: the traditional patriarchal gender order; the erosion of protective social mechanisms; the lack of the rule of law; and poverty and insecurity in the country. Violence against women is tolerated, and perpetrators enjoy impunity because the law enforcement and justice systems are generally dysfunctional and moreover biased against women. From the legal and institutional points of view, this failure to protect is grounded in the multiplicity of normative systems and the predominance of the so-called “informal” justice over the formal justice machinery. Furthermore, prevailing powerblocks tend to legitimise much of the transgression of women’s rights, by referring to the sharia.

The particular manifestations of VAW that this report discusses are: forced marriage, marital rape, bad (a socially acceptable practice of ‘trafficking’ where a woman or girl is ceded by one family to another to settle a dispute upon the orders of a local council, jirga), and forced self-immolation for ‘honour crimes’. This report concludes that the cause of the extraordinary level of violence in Afghanistan is embedded in a traditional system of male domination in which girls and women have no status as independent persons. They are workforce, assets to be used to the greatest financial or strategic benefit on the marriage market, and a potential source of dishonour for the patriarchal family. Moreover, the limits the traditional normative framework placed on the exercise of male power over women have to a large extent been washed away by years of boundless war, which has disintegrated the social fabric of the society. When the rule of power, be it in the hands of State or non-State actors, replaces the rule of law, the highest price is paid by those with the least power, particularly women and children. In this context, many actors deform Islam and culture from a source of justice and fairness into a justification for their tyrannical acts against women.

Ertürk, Yakin
Publisher and location: 
United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO): Geneva