Silence is Violence: End the Abuse of Women in Afghanistan

The report seeks to put back on the agenda some of the issues pertaining to the enjoyment of all human rights by all Afghan women that are being increasingly ignored. The problems identified in this report require further discussion and public debate, with a view to informing appropriate legal, policy and awareness-raising measures. In this report, UNAMA Human Rights has focused on the following critical issues: (a) violence that inhibits the participation of women in public life; and (b) sexual violence in the context of rape. These issues are but two manifestations of the violence that confront Afghans. They are reviewed in the context of the prevailing socio-political culture whereby the rights of women are bartered to advance vested interests or issue-specific agendas. This report also examines how conservative political and religious forces play a role in restricting women’s rights. The controversy surrounding the Shi’a personal status law exemplifies both problems.

This report also discusses how the violence that scars the lives of a huge proportion of Afghan women and girls is deeply-rooted in Afghan culture, customs, attitudes, and practices. On the issue of rape, UNAMA’s research found that although under-reported and concealed, this ugly crime is an everyday occurrence in all parts of the country. Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes and in their communities, in detention facilities and as a result of traditional harmful practices to resolve feuds within the family or community. The issue of “honour” is a socio-cultural norm that is central to the issue of rape and efforts to counter its prevalence. Shame is attached to rape victims rather than to the perpetrator. Victims often find themselves being prosecuted for the offence of zina (adultery) and are denied access to justice. The problem is compounded when communities subject female victims to lifelong stigma and shame. Moreover, society may call for, or condone, sexual violence through harmful traditional practices such as baad (the practice of handing over girls to settle disputes), or by insisting that a victim marry the rapist. 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.

71) United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Publisher and location: 
UNAMA and OHCHR: Kabul, Afghanistan