November 20, 2019

Afghanistan: Opening Courts to Address Gender-Based Violence

Women around the world still face many challenges, but existing inequality and institutionalized discrimination are far more felt among women who experience war and/or emergency situations. In Afghanistan, women who face sexual violence, internal displacement, poverty, or don’t have access to health or education rarely have the tools or mechanisms to address the issues that affect their wellbeing. Importantly, the prevalence of corruption, abuse of power, lack of professionalism or even cultural pressure can restrict an Afghan woman’s right to quality judicial services. 

To address this issue, the Afghan justice sector set up special courts focused on cases of violence against women. Available in 15 provinces of 34, these courts are often headed by female judges and can contribute to inclusive access to justice, increase accountability, and potentially reduce gender-based crimes. According to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, since the courts were installed, 4,340 cases of violence against women were registered across the country in 2018 alone. 

Through the Open Government Partnership, the Afghan government, in association with the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, women’s rights networks, and advocacy organizations, will establish more courts in 12 other provinces, making these courts available in over 80% of the country. Additionally, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan will host a series of trainings for government officials to staff the courts and effectively address this issue and will work to raise awareness of this resource so more women outside of the metropolitan areas can access the courts.

Despite the many challenges in ensuring the safety of female judges and staff for the courts outside the main cities and the resulting impact on access for women outside these cities, citizens in Afghanistan are working together to address the vulnerability of women in conflict and emergency situations by adopting and implementing a policy that involves key government institutions including the Ministries of Interior and Justice.