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Violence against women has emerged as arguably the single most important focus for both gender programming and women’s rights activism in Afghanistan over the past decade. Efforts to counter such violence have mainly sought to strengthen criminal accountability through reforms of the law, the courts, the prosecution and the police. This strategy is based on the recognition that an important cause of violence against women in contemporary Afghanistan is the prevailing tendency to consider such violence a private matter rather than a criminal act. Progress to strengthen accountability, however, has been slow, despite the enactment of a landmark law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) in 2009. The vast majority of cases, even if registered with the prosecution, fail to make it through the criminal justice system, including murders of women. The complex reasons for this high rate of attrition are as yet not well understood and form the subject of this research project.

The project will use a dual approach. First, it will map the course of registered cases as they pass through the legal process, disaggregating them by type of incident and outcomes. This will provide important data on what types of violence against women (VAW) incidents are most commonly registered with the prosecution, and what offenses have the highest and lowest attrition rates through the legal chain. Secondly, in four sample provinces, we will map the reasons for why individual VAW cases exit the criminal system. This will help us identify the factors influencing the failure to move from registration to prosecution and/or conviction, such as withdrawal of complaint, lack of evidence, quality of the legal defense, the judges’ interpretation of the law or ideological outlook, or extra-legal considerations such as family relations, political pressure or bribes.Finally, as part of this qualitative research we shall systematically consider the legal basis for convictions as well as the socio-political identity and status of convicted perpetrators and victims. Are there any patterns with respect to their social, political or economic background, their access to legal aid, and the legal basis of indictments/convictions? What can this tell us about whether the justice system differentiates in terms of status, age and class?

The  project is a collaboration between the Research Institute for Women Peace & Security (RIWPS), and Chr. Michelsen Institute(CMI).

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