We are four sister and brothers and I am the eldest of them. When I was 10 years old my father died. My mother is an illiterate woman and she earns money for our maintenance in a very difficult way, all day long she works as cleaner and washes other peoples’ laundry.

Due to poor economic condition of our family, my mother decided to engage me to my cousin when I was only 14 years old. Unfortunately for me he is unemployed and addicted to drug. I did not agree to this arrangement but no one listen to me and after one month I had to marry him.

On the first day of our marriage he beat me for not looking at him, after that every day he uses to beat me for no reason. He also asked me for unappropriated sexual activities and when I reject his demand, he would beat me with a stick. In addition, my mother in law always interfere in our personal matters and stimulated my husband to beat me.

He forced me to go outside and find money for him even if I had to beg. One day, when he kicked me out to find money for him I went to the police station and at last I was introduced to HAWCA women protection center where a case was opened for me. I have no complain against my mother because I feel that she also had no option and could not support us all, but I want to take my divorce and punish my husband and his mother for their cruel acts.

Procedure:

Her case was registered in the HAWCA registration book and the necessary information was given to her by HAWCA defense lawyer.

Her case was introduced to general attorney. She was sent to the forensic to find out if she has been beaten. The medical tests proved that she has been victim of beating, after that her case was sent to general attorney department of elimination of violence. She got her divorce and her husband was imprisoned. She was reintegrated with her mother and she was contacted for 6 months after which she decided to marry the man of her choice.

I was born in a poor family in Kabul city, when I was 16 years old in 5th grade, because of our poor economy and without my consent my father engaged me to someone that I did not like. I told my parents several time that I am not happy for this engagement but they did not listen to me, and when my fiancée saw that I am not interested in him, he threatens to kill me if I spoke of my disinterest to anyone, I have given 200000 AFG to your father and I will give another 100000 to him after marriage and so you belong to me and you are my property.   

I thought I was sold out and cannot get out of this situation, I was in a very bad situation. My family told me that if I did not accept this engagement they will cut all the relationship bonds with me and so I had no choice but to accept this engagement.  

I was in love with someone else and we really wanted each other and we promised that after graduation we will get married.

I was under the pressure of my family and fiancée, several time I decided to kill myself, I ate rats poison but I was taken to hospital and saved. One day a friend of mine told me that I can go to the ministry of women affairs and seek help from them and so when I got out of the house to go to school, instead I went to the ministry of women affairs and asked them to help me who introduce me to HAWCA women protection center.

 

Procedure

Her case was registered in the HAWCA registration book and the necessary information was given to her by HAWCA defense lawyer.

The case was followed in the family court. Her parent and fiancé did not agree for the termination of the engagement and so HAWCA used article 64 of the civil law and cancelled the engagement. After the cancellation of the engagement, she was married to the person she loved in the court and they went hole happily.

Poor Afghan Girls

Sahar was only 10 years old when she was forced to marry an older man.

Her father agreed to "trade" her in what is known in Afghan culture as " Badal " so he could have a second wife.

Her husband stopped her from going to school, starved and beat her.

Lina has a similar story, but it stretches back much longer.

Her uncle forced her to marry her cousin when she was just ten years old. After 30 years of abuse, she managed to escape, but Afghanistan’s laws mean that she must now wait three more years to be able to divorce him.

Both Sahar, now 14, and Lina, now 43, managed to flee to the emergency women's shelter my organisation runs in Kabul and are both recovering along with nearly 200 others.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman. Women face violence and abuse in many different ways - in public life and in our homes.

After decades of being influenced by external forces - including invasions by the U.S. and Russia, which were supposed to “liberate” us - it is time that we take charge and fuel change from within, and that our government makes some major steps forward for women and girls.

One of the most fundamental changes we need is for the trading of Afghan girls under the guise of “child marriage” to be banned. The legal minimum age of marriage is currently 16 years, but this is rarely adhered to and girls as young as 12 are married off if they "look like they are old enough." Only 15 percent of our girls are educated and 60 percent are married off by age 16.

The minimum age should be increased to the international standard of 18. Anyone - including family members - who forces a girl to marry below this age should be arrested. This would make clear that girls are of equal value to boys and should not be treated as commodities.

Another issue we deal with at our shelter is that women have to wait three years to get divorced after abusive marriages. This can be highly distressing and means that women who have often been victims of violence need to put their lives on hold until the government permits them to move on.

The Afghan government also needs to make sure that women who flee violence to safe spaces should not be further victimized. Regulation 1133 of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan states that it is not a crime for a person to run away from home to escape violence to stay with a close relative, an NGO or after approaching a government entity - when no sexual activity takes place.

However, in such highly-charged situations where women flee violence, they often stay elsewhere such as in a hotel - and are punished if they do so. This is completely unfair and further victimizes women who are often in desperate situations.

Stalking is also growing in prevalence and has also yet to be defined and outlawed in Afghan law. A draft law was recently passed but it needs to be strengthened to include both definitions and punishments.

When a case is brought forward of any form of violence against women it should be continued - even when the plaintiff “drops” it. It may sound beneficial to female victims of violence to be able to drop a case, but the reality is that she is often pressurized to drop it by the culprit himself or by family members.

Instead, she should be seen as a potential victim and given adequate protection. This includes those instances when a victim does not make a formal request but when there is enough evidence to start an investigation.

Existing violence against women laws should be properly enforced, too. A woman can face huge obstacles when bringing a case against a perpetrator. Those who commit acts of violence against women are usually not punished and can find a way out. I know of several cases where judges are bribed, or are simply afraid of judging against a culprit who belongs to a powerful party.

The whole Afghan legal system needs to be comprehensively improved. Professional lawyers and judges should be hired in courts and in the judiciary. Higher priority should be given to cases of violence against women and a clause for moral crimes should be included in the existing violence against women law.

Female survivors of violence should be supported when reintegrating into their communities. They need training, job opportunities, psycho-social assistance and educational facilities.

We should have a national awareness programme on ending violence against women, aimed at students, mullahs and religious authorities in particular.

Finally, government funding of shelters like the one we run in Kabul should be increased and made sustainable. We had a crisis earlier this year when funding was stopped for a time. We cannot afford for that to happen again and for the hundreds of girls and women we help to be potentially put in harm’s way.

Afghanistan can become a safer place, but only if our government gets behind us and makes sure that women and girls like Sahar and Lina no longer have to live in fear.

Enduring decades of war - the longest in U.S. history - has certainly not liberated us. We will have to do that ourselves.  

Shafiqa Noori is Executive Director of the Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA), the Afghan partner of international group Donor Direct Action.

 

Building the capacity of the human right defenders has always been one of the most important activities of HAWCA. In September 2017 HAWCA targeted the human right defenders in Balkh province and provided workshops for the defenders in Nahrshahi, Dehdadi. Shulgara, Charbolak and mazar city.

The workshops focused on developing the capacity of the human right defenders to fight and prevent violence against women and to advocate for women rights.

My mother and father are dead. My eldest brother is taking care of me. When I was 14 years old he wanted me to get married with an old man who was 50 years old. I told him that I do not want to marry now and specially not with an old man, but he did not listen to me.

In my absence and without my consent he got me married with that old man.

During Nikah, the woman is asked if she agrees to the marriage or not, but in my case, none came to me and no one asked me if I agree to the marriage or not.

After marriage, my brother sent me my husband’s house, I was very afraid and did not know what to do and how to start my new life, I had no plan and was not ready for this. I was there with him for 5 days but I did not let him touch me, he wanted to get close to me and so he started beating and threatening me. After five days my sister came to me and I told her that I do not want him so she went to the police station and they summoned me and my husband. After the primary investigation they introduced me to general attorney department of elimination of violence. The General attorney started its investigation, they found out that the marriage is by force and under marriage and so they arrested my husband and my brother and introduced me to HAWCA WPC.

I told them that I want to take my divorce as I was not  ready for marriage yet.

Procedure:

Her case was registered in the HAWCA registration book and the necessary information was given to her by HAWCA defense lawyer.

Because she is 14 years old and she is considered a child, in addition her marriage was by force so the whole marriage was considered null and void ab initio.

During the court procedure as she had no ID to prove her age, she was sent to the forensic to prove that she is 14 years old, after that her case was sent to general attorney department of elimination of violence.

She got her divorce and did not complain against her husband and her brother.

She left HAWCA WPC and went to her sisters’ house.

 Click here to download the pdf format.

 Introduction of booklet (Exit from Violence “you are not alone”)

The booklet Exit from Violence “you are not alone” was presented by HAWCA program manager on 19th of November and it was distributed to all the participants of the program. It contained information on forms of violence, how to realize that a woman is victim of violence, how to support a woman victim of violence and the contact numbers of the governmental and non-governmental organizations that provides free protection and legal aids.

 Introduction of booklet (Exit from Violence “you are not alone”)

Precious Lives has been implemented in Kabul and Herat provinces with the aim of bringing dignity back to the Afghan women. This project provided Legal Aid for women victims of violence in 4 centers (HAWCA LAC Kabul, LAC Herat, HAWCA WPC and OPAWC) have been established in Kabul and Herat, where women victims of violence received legal and psychosocial services.

 Since April 2014 HAWCA legal aid centers in Kabul and Herat provided free legal and psychological services to 660 women victims of violence, 588 legal advices, legal awareness to 600 people, legal trainings to 243 committee members, English and computer to 210 girls. The project also supported internship for girls and under this project a number of 32 newly graduated lawyers learn the practical ways of lawyering and how to defend a woman victim of violence.

 Through this project OPAWC center on the other hand provided literacy, computer, English and Vocational training to 645 women living in Afshar, Char rahi Qamber and Qaragha area.

HAWCA WPC activities that contribute to the project main goal also supported 541 women victims of violence and 231 children.

 In total the direct beneficiaries of this project were 3750 men, women and children. 

Beside the main activity of the project which was providing free legal and psychological services to women victims of violence, the project focused on establishment of women right defending committees which consisted of men and women. These committees are created so that the number of women right defenders at community level are increased and when the project is over, these committees could continue to defend from the rights of women.

Public awareness on women rights was another major activity of the project where people were given information on issues such as EVAW law, women inheritance rights, women marital rights, child rights, right to education, right to medical services, right to information etc.

The English and computer courses of HAWCA was to create a gateway for our women right defenders to meet and communicate with the international women right defenders. The committee members learned how to use internet and social websites to publish their comments and views on women and how the life can be made easier for them.

Making women self-sufficient was another major activity of the project and the responsibility was given to OPAWC. Women from Afshar and nearby area came there to learn literacy, English, Computer and vocational training. The main focus of the project was on the literacy and vocational training courses so that the women could learn how to read and write and how to cook food suitable to be sold in the market and how to make cloths which are sellable in the market. 

The Action Research has been implemented to get an in depth understanding of women and children victims of gendered based violence needs, problems, expectations, and help seeking processes and of the response capacity at both the institutional and civil society level in the context of targeted communities, that is the communities where the project has been implemented. 

In the continuity of the program held in Kabul, another program was held in Herat city by the implementing partners of Precious Lives to present the achievements, challenges and lesson learned of the project.

A round table was organized in this program where representatives of the Directorate of women affairs, general attorney, directorate of justice, directorate of pilgrimage and prayers, HAWCA defense lawyer, representatives of HAWCA CDCs discussed on the problems that women are facing. The main topics discussed were on the force and child marriages, right to marriage, prevention abuse cases, reduction of duration for divorce based on absence from 3 years to 1-year time.

In this program Mr. Hashim Ahmadi the program manager of HAWCA, presented the achievements of the precious lives project, findings of the research and explained about the exit booklet named Freedom from violence, you are not alone.

The program was appreciated by all the participants of the program. During the lunch time, there was big discussion on the topics discussed during the program and the participants exchanged their views in this regard.

Precious Lives has been implemented in Kabul and Herat provinces with the aim of bringing dignity back to the Afghan women. This project provided Legal Aid for women victims of violence in 4 centers (HAWCA LAC Kabul, LAC Herat, HAWCA WPC and OPAWC) have been established in Kabul and Herat, where women victims of violence received legal and psychosocial services.

 Since April 2014 HAWCA legal aid centers in Kabul and Herat provided free legal and psychological services to 660 women victims of violence, 588 legal advices, legal awareness to 600 people, legal trainings to 243 committee members, English and computer to 210 girls. The project also supported internship for girls and under this project a number of 32 newly graduated lawyers learn the practical ways of lawyering and how to defend a woman victim of violence.

 Through this project OPAWC center on the other hand provided literacy, computer, English and Vocational training to 645 women living in Afshar, Char rahi Qamber and Qaragha area.

HAWCA WPC activities that contribute to the project main goal also supported 541 women victims of violence and 231 children.

 In total the direct beneficiaries of this project were 3750 men, women and children. 

Beside the main activity of the project which was providing free legal and psychological services to women victims of violence, the project focused on establishment of women right defending committees which consisted of men and women. These committees are created so that the number of women right defenders at community level are increased and when the project is over, these committees could continue to defend from the rights of women.

Public awareness on women rights was another major activity of the project where people were given information on issues such as EVAW law, women inheritance rights, women marital rights, child rights, right to education, right to medical services, right to information etc.

The English and computer courses of HAWCA was to create a gateway for our women right defenders to meet and communicate with the international women right defenders. The committee members learned how to use internet and social websites to publish their comments and views on women and how the life can be made easier for them.

Making women self-sufficient was another major activity of the project and the responsibility was given to OPAWC. Women from Afshar and nearby area came there to learn literacy, English, Computer and vocational training. The main focus of the project was on the literacy and vocational training courses so that the women could learn how to read and write and how to cook food suitable to be sold in the market and how to make cloths which are sellable in the market. 

The Action Research has been implemented to get an in depth understanding of women and children victims of gendered based violence needs, problems, expectations, and help seeking processes and of the response capacity at both the institutional and civil society level in the context of targeted communities, that is the communities where the project has been implemented. 

 

On 19th of Nov 2017 the implementing partners of Precious Lives, organized a gathering in babor Garden to present the achievements, challenges and lesson learned of the project.

A round table was organized in this program where head of the family court, head of the women protection center of ministry of Women Affairs and 3 HAWCA lawyers participated in it. 3 beneficiaries of HAWCA women protection center presented their cases and demands to the government and the participants of the round table expressed their views and answered their questions. The main question raised by the victims were:

1-   Why should I wait for 3 years to complete to get divorce based on the absence of the husband?

2-   Why did the general attorney released my husband who has committed many crimes against, by taking a 200 AFG mobile as guarantee and now the police cannot find him.

3-   Why doesn’t the government provide the women who are homeless with secure residency and job opportunities?

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