Afghanistan Considering Law ‘Silencing Woman’

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan

Rights groups have condemned a proposed law in Afghanistan, which they say will silence women, victims of domestic abuse and forced marriage, and allow abusers escape prosecution.

The groups are therefore calling for international pressure to prevent President Hamid Karzai from signing it into law.

Afghanistan’s parliament, a two-chamber house dominated by conservative Muslim leaders and former warlords, passed a “criminal procedure law” last year, which experts say contains articles that deny women legal protections. But Karzai has to sign it before it goes into force.

“Afghan President Hamid Karzai should refuse to sign a new criminal procedure code that would effectively deny women protection from domestic violence and forced or child marriage,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement published on its website on Wednesday.

The draft document contains an article that according to HRW states: “The following people can not be questioned as witnesses… relatives of the accused.”

That language, according to HRW, would effectively protect women’s abusers.

“A woman who is the victim of domestic violence won’t be able to testify against her husband, a girl who has been forced into a marriage against her will won’t be able to testify against her father,” Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.

“Laws that make domestic violence, make forced marriage, make child marriage illegal will become meaningless if this law is passed.”

Saeeq Shajjan, a lawyer with his own firm in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera that the full bill had not been made public.

“The bill could be very problematic. The prosecution will have a difficult time to bring cases against offenders, particularly in cases of domestic abuse,” he said.

“If this is passed it could ruin the good work we have been doing over the past 13 years for human rights, especially for women.”