Kabul – The government of Afghanistan has announced that it will seek a rewrite of a proposed bill that rights activists have described as a threat to the prosecution of violence against women.
Monday’s call for an amendment to the criminal procedure law, passed by parliament last year, comes after a month of public scrutiny saying a provision in the law that prohibits “relatives of the accused” from testifying in a court of law would make the prosecution of domestic abuse cases near impossible.
In a statement, Aimal Faizi, the presidential palace spokesperson, said the cabinet had decided that a new “Afghan criminal prosecution code won’t come into force unless new amendments are made”.
“This law will not bar any relative or any family member to testify against each other or another member of their family,” Faizi told the Associated Press news agency. “It will be up to them. They will have the freedom.”
Manizha Naderi, the executive director of Women for Afghan Women told Al Jazeera that the original draft would have sent a signal to the Taliban. It would have shown the Taliban that the country was “getting ready for the return of the Taliban”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mir Agha, whose sister Setara was disfigured by her husband, said the initial draft of the law showed “little regard by the Afghan government for the nation’s women.”
Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch’s Afghanistan researcher, maintained a guarded optimism about the calls for amendments.
Though Barr said she was glad to hear the palace call for amendments, she said this was but one instance in a “broader pattern of attacks” on women’s rights by the Afghan government.
It is not the first time the Afghan government has performed a u-turn on law. In 2009, it was criticised for passing the Shia Family Law, which ended the need for a husband to gain consent from his wife for sex. Karzai would later amend the law, saying he had not read what he had earlier signed.
Three years later, HRW called on the Karzai government to release 400 girls and women they said were imprisoned on charges of ‘moral crimes’, including running away from home and sex outside marriage.