Afghanistan: Harmful traditional practices that violate women's rights widespread. Speedy implementation of the law on elimination of violence against women needed

Publication Date: 
December 9, 2010

Widespread harmful traditional practices – child marriage, giving away girls for dispute resolution, forced isolation in the home, exchange marriage and “honour” killings – cause suffering, humiliation and marginalization for millions of Afghan women and girls. Such practices are grounded in discriminatory views and beliefs about the role and position of women in Afghan society. Many Afghans, including some religious leaders reinforce these harmful customs by invoking their interpretation of Islam. In most cases, however, these practices are inconsistent with Sharia law as well as Afghan and international law, and violate the human rights of women.

UNAMA Human Rights’ 56-page report Harmful Traditional Practices and Implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women in Afghanistan documents particular customary practices that violate the rights of women and girls throughout Afghanistan, describes the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s response to these practices and makes recommendations to end such practices. Based on extensive research and interviews carried out in 2010 in 29 of 34 provinces of Afghanistan with women, men, Government authorities, religious leaders, women’s rights and civil society activists and community groups, UNAMA Human Rights (HR) found that such practices are pervasive, occurring in varying degrees in all communities, urban and rural, and among all ethnic groups. The report found that such practices are further entrenched by the Government’s inability to fully protect the rights of women and girls, highlighting the need to expedite implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW law) which criminalizes many harmful traditional practices. The report notes that most harmful traditional practices are both crimes under Afghan law and inconsistent with Sharia law and cites the relevant article of the EVAW law that criminalizes the harmful practice together with complementary principles of Sharia law. Extensive discussions with a diverse range of Islamic legal experts informed UNAMA HR’s analysis of the principles of Sharia law.

The role of religious leaders, community elders and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms in both perpetuating and eliminating harmful practices is also highlighted. The report presents findings on community perceptions of harmful practices to better inform the design and delivery of measures by the Government, religious leaders, communities and international donors to end such practices.

Full report available here: 

Executive Summary: