Afghanistan: Failure to monitor mediation solutions to VAW restricts reg of complaints in the courts
Wednesday May 11, 2016
Cases of violence against women: Is mediation the best option?By Abdul Qadir Munsef & Zarghona Salehai
KABUL (Pajhwok): Thousands of cases of violence against women are resolved annually through mediation as there is no mechanism of monitoring the process. Analysts believe mediation is a useful way to prevent the break-up of families, but the absence of a monitoring mechanism restricts registration of such complaints with courts.
The findings of Pajhwok Afghan News show that more than 21,000 cases of violence against women, including hundreds of murder incidents, have been registered over the past six years with the Ministry of Women Affairs. Ninety percent of women have been subjected to violence at least once in their lives. In five victims, four were below 30 years of age.
There are different types of violence against women in Afghanistan, where more attention has been paid to the situation of women over the past 14 years. But the problem still exists in remote rural areas.
Most women subjected to violence:
On the basis of a survey by Global Rights conducted in 2008, nine of 10 Afghan women have been subjected to some type of violence in their lifetime.
The director of human rights department at the Ministry of Women Affairs, Aziza Adalatkhwa, told Pajhwok Afghan News on April 20, 2016 that violence against women had increased, supporting the findings of the Global Rights survey.
“As Afghan society is a traditional one where violence ranges from improper behaviour to beating of women; we can say can say the report is accurate and 99 percent of women in Afghanistan have experienced some type of violence in their life.”
21,000 cases registered in 6 years
According to the Ministry of Women Affairs, although some females are facing violence, they do not take their cases to the government due social restrictions and negative customs. From 2009 to March 2016, an average of 3500 incidents of violence took place annually against women.
Regarding the lowest rate of violence in 2009 and more incidents in 2015, Aziza Adalatkhwa said sometimes insecurity hampered the registration of cases. The numbers of registered cases increased in the past year due to rising awareness among women and growing trust in the ministry.
The worse of violence
Written information that Pajhwok received from the ministry shows women are beaten frequently. But the worst types of violence are murder, rape, giving off girls as a dispute settlement mechanism, and abductions. Forty-three types of violence have been documented by the ministry.
The Afghanistan Central Statistics Organisation estimates the population of the country at 28.6 million -- half of them females. While looking at the number of incidents of violence against women over the past six years, one can easily conclude one in 681 women registered their cases with the government.
Courage of young women
A report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN High Commission for Human Rights in April 2015 says the cases of violence against 110 women were referred to the judiciary. They followed the cases from their registration to final verdicts and mediation.
The report showed that nearly 70 percent of cases were registered with the departments of women affairs and police and less than five percent with courts. And most of the cases have been reported by young women.
According to Adalatkhwa, the Ministry of Women Affairs assisted UNAMA in preparing the report. Violence took place against women of different ages, but most of the cases were reported by women under 30, because they have less patience and more courage.
Resolution of cases
The UNAMA report said most of the cases were addressed through mediation under a women protection law and the rest by non-governmental entities in traditional ways. The findings of the report say fewer cases were resolved by courts.
The findings showed perpetrators of violence in cases have been brought to justice. Lack of access to judicial departments, lengthy litigation, widespread corruption in courts and inefficiency force women to go for mediation.
According to the report, people have limited access to their legal rights and facilities -- a key challenge that prevents for women from getting justice. In some parts of the country, governmental and nongovernmental entities provide legal facilities for women, but they are unaware due to illiteracy and inadequate civic education.
A Supreme Court official, who did not want to be named, said courts had been tracking cases of domestic violence. He rejected as false allegations that courts had their own limitations. Without presenting any figures, he said the victims did not move courts because the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Attorney General Office and related organs resettled such cases.
The best option
Some families approach the ministry for mediation in violence cases, calling it the best way of resolving the problem. A 45 years old man said on condition of anonymity they referred to the ministry the tiff between him and his spouse. “Mediation is like sweet water with a healing touch.”
He married a second time a year ago. His first wife with four children has gone to her father’s house. “It was destined to have second wife, but I still love my first spouse and don’t want my children to be deprived of father’s love. Mediation led to ending our spat.”
But a woman, who moved the ministry in a similar case, said she had been insulted and beaten for three years by her husband and mother-in-law over the past three years. She is now living in her father along with her child over the past three months.
“I don’t want to spoil my life and deprive my child of father’s love. But my husband should mend his ways and realise his mistakes. If he does so, our issue will become negotiable,” she observed.
Her husband, who also visited the ministry, agreed to mediation, but he did not want to talk to Pajhwok Afghan News on the issue.
Adalatkhwa said if issues were not serious, they met both sides of family disputes to mediate between them and prevent separation. Mediation had produced fruitful results, she claimed.
Women’s role in mediation
Women also play as an effective role as men in mediating addressing cases of violence.
An employee of the Planning Department of the ministry, LatifaAini who has more than 12 years of experiences in dealing with family issues, said: “I have taken responsibility for mediation on issues facing my relatives and friends. I worked for two years with an NGO to mediate on family issues. I twice addressed the cases of violence against women at the ministry. I am happy and feel lucky to have rescued dozens of youth from being harmed.”
Although she studied economics, Aini has learnt from her father, a judge of the Supreme Court, how to resolve an issue. “When I went to the ministry a year ago, a betrothed boy and girl came seeking separation. Via mediation by me, both of them changed their mind. It was a good memory for me.”
Mediation by women was more effective than by men in such issues, she said, adding many families preferred women as mediators with whom they could better interact, because women were kind-hearted.
Latifa insisted female victims of violence preferred women to handle their cases because they could easily share their stories with them without any hesitation. It was why mediation by women produced better results, she maintained.
Elders as mediators
Some cases of violence against women have been resolved by tribal elders and family members without being referred to government departments. Haji Mohammad Tahir, 80, a resident of the Karta-i-Naw area of Kabul, said he had been able to address many such cases in his neighborhood.
One of his good memories concerns intercession on behalf of a six years old girl, wanted separation from her husband. As a result of efforts by him and other elders, the dispute between the couple was successfully resolved.
A jihadi commander in the Chak district of central Maidan Wardak province, Ali Marjan, said he had also played a key role in resolving such cases. Mediation is important because local elders and victims’ relatives better appreciated the sensitivity of the issue, he reasoned.
However, he admitted: “At times, wrong decisions are taken… In order to prevent such decisions, it is better to involve religious scholars in addition to tribal elders in mediation of such cases. By doing so, all decisions will be in accordance with the Islamic Sharia.”
Need for monitoring
A lecturer in law and political science at Kabul University, Shahla Farid, told Pajhwok Afghan News she was in favour of resolving cases of violence through mediation because family members were not affected in the process.
However, she believed greater attention should be paid to referring the issues to professional and informed individuals, because there was a possibility of wrong decision taken in this way.
She agreed some decisions were made by people with no experience or expertise in mediation. Since implementation of the decisions was not properly monitored, the teacher explained, many women were affected.
The lack of monitoring resulted in women being subjected of violence for a second time, she admitted, saying the issues referred to the ministry were sorted out by professional individuals. But she was not sure whether the ministry followed the situation later on.
According to Adalatkhwa, most of registered cases have been addressed by the ministry through mediation. She said there is no specific mechanism of mediation, but at the primary stage, each side is counseled by professionals.
Some non-governmental entities processed the cases unprofessionally, she alleged, acknowledging the ministry could not properly monitor the cases resolved due to lack of staff and resources.