Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Construction of new women’s jails for transitional housing highlights problems with Afghan justice system

In Afghanistan, new prisons are being built for women. Although there are currently 300 female inmates, the number is expected to grow. One reason for this increase is that jails provide a safe place for women until they are able to be reintegrated into society, as shelters do not have the room for the released women, and are reluctant to house the former prisoners, according to Aljazeera.net.

Many of the women imprisoned are convicted of “moral crimes” and would be considered “victims rather than criminals under any interpretation of international human rights laws, including those to which Afghanistan is a signatory,” according to the article. These women are further victimized by the criminal justice process, and upon being released are left to fend for themselves, making them vulnerable to honor killings.

According to Anou Borrey, a gender and justice consultant with Unifem: “There is a need to increase the awareness of women about their rights so they don’t end up in prison.” Because women can be charged with adultery in rape cases or even after verbally divorcing their husbands, marriage registration would help prevent these charges being brought against them. Furthermore, registering child births could halt child marriages, which may be forced on girls as young as age six.

Improvements need to be made to the justice system in Afghanistan to better serve women. Borrey states that there is a lack of support from the government, non-governmental organizations and the community to reintegrate these women back into society. The chances of women surviving on their own are low, even without honor killings.

According to Dorothea Grieger, a criminal justice program assistant with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “Improvement should be used to help [women] to lead self-supporting lives after release.” This includes literacy, education and vocational training while women are inside prison to give them useful skills, as well as mediation with family, local elders or religious leaders to help increase the woman’s chance of acceptance upon being released. UNODC further recommends legislative reforms, better facilities, and improved legal aid. More harm comes to these women with sudden release, which leaves them in danger on the street.

For the full story, click here.


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