National Inquiry on Rape and Honor killing in Afghanistan Report
Updated : 09 Jun 2013
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
Despite many efforts made over the past few years to protect women's rights and to fight violence against women, still violence against women continue to be one of the most serious problems in Afghanistan. Women and girls are mostly victims of various violations. In spite of different problems and obstacles in front of women, thousands of cases of violence against women from all over the country are registered at the Commission’s offices annually. Honor killings and sexual assaults are the most serious cases of human rights violation and violence against women. The higher rate of occurrence of such cases has made the AIHRC to launch the first national inquiry program about these two cases in Afghanistan.
National inquiry is a very effective tool and method to address important issues of human rights. This program includes various aspects including case study, data analysis, fact finding, presenting consultation and recommendations. Similarly, training and awareness are the most important aspects of this program and sensitizing public opinion against the cases of human rights violation is one of its main objectives. This program will be widely implemented at national level to address the larger problems of human rights, rather than individual cases to be handled routinely.
The AIHRC, using experiences of different countries in this area and relying on its legal mandates in the Article 58 of the Afghan Constitution and articles 5 and 21 of the Law on Structure, Duties and Mandates of the AIHRC, develops and implements the first National Inquiry Program in Afghanistan about cases of sexual assaults and honor killings.
For several reasons, the Commission has chosen “Honor Killings and Sexual Assaults” as the subject of this national inquiry. Based on the findings by the Commission, cases of honor killing and sexual assaults have been the most serious cases of violence against women registered in our regional and provincial offices in the recent years. The number of such cases has been increased recently occurring in almost all parts of Afghanistan and has changed to constitute a general concern. These two cases are the most serious human rights violations and the victims and their relatives have suffered from the most severe physical, mental and social trauma. Therefore, it is necessary to consider and investigate about these issues as serious human rights violations, and the victims of these crimes should be protected and the perpetrators should be prosecuted and brought to justice.
The AIHRC is following five main goals in the implementation of national inquiry programs on honor killings and rape, and make effort to achieve them:
- To address and investigate about the cases of honor killings and rape against women
- To assess the situation of victims and those at risk
- To collect and analyze the relevant data
- To raise public awareness and sensitivity against these phenomena and hold the government accountable to implement the program
- Bring change in the laws and policies, and give priorities to combat against these issues and present specific recommendations to improve the situation through providing reports on the issue.
In different phases of this national inquiry, more than 2000 people from different groups in the society including representatives of state organ, civil society organizations, justice and judicial organs, media, associations, provincial councils, in charges of safe shelters, elders and influential figures in the society participated in consultative sessions, joint focus group meetings and public hearings to discuss about cases of sexual assaults, honor killings and their causes in the society. Similarly, during this program, interviews were made with 136 accused persons, offenders, victims, eyewitnesses and family members of the victims. Almost 127 cases of sexual assaults and honor killings were documented.
This report consists of 8 chapters and its data and information has been collected through holding focus group discussions, public hearing sessions, interviews with victims, their family members, witnesses, offenders( accused persons and perpetrators) as well as data base of the AIHRC.
Summary of Findings of This Report
Since the beginning of 1390 till the end of Saur 1392, a number of 406 cases of honor killings and sexual assaults have been registered by regional and provincial offices of the AIHRC out of which 243 cases are honor killings and 163 cases are identified as sexual assault cases. Due to severe traditional sensitivities and cultural obstacles, a large number of such cases are kept secret, but still the highest number sexual assaults and honor killings in Afghanistan is shocking.
Out of the above-mentioned cases, 127 of them have been documented in this national inquiry which include 66 percent (84 cases) of sexual assaults and 34 percent (43 cases) of honor killings.
The most common type of honor killings is committed for sexual relation outside marriage. The findings of this national inquiry show that almost 50 percent of honor killings are committed as a result of out of marriage relations between a woman and a man “attempting sexual relations (Zena)”.
Sometimes “being a victim of sexual assault” can result in an honor killing. It constitutes 3.8 percent of honor killings documented in this national inquiry. According to traditions and cultural norms, women and girls who became victims of sexual assaults are considered the cause of shame and disgracefulness in the family and in the tribe. Their presence in the community can cause continuation of shame and scandal. Therefore, the killing of the woman is considered as redressing and removing shamefulness and humiliation. Researches show that in many cases, justice and judicial organs in Afghanistan also consider victims of sexual assaults as criminals and condemn them. This is common in most provinces of our country.
Sometimes, matters which have no direct connection with “illegal sexual relation” or even “sexual assault”, only personal and baseless suspicion about women can result in an honor killing. For example escaping of women from home though is not considered as a crime according to laws in Afghanistan can cause honor killing sometimes. Almost 15.4 percent of honor killings documented by the national inquiry program are committed because a woman or a girl had escaped from home. Similarly 3.8 percent of the cases occurred for not accepting forced marriage and 1.9 percent of the cases happened to expressing willingness to get married to someone.
Social traditions and customs are very strict and harsh against women, but due to a superior position, men are not treated in such a harsh way. For example the aforementioned cases seldom cause the killing of men. These findings show a high level of vulnerability and severe restrictions against women in traditional societies of Afghanistan.
The high tendency for total or partial concealment of such cases in the society has made research activities very difficult. For example, in 57 percent of the cases relation between victims of sexual assaults and the offenders has not been mentioned clearly, in 8 percent of the cases only “offender” has been mentioned. Most probably, 65 percent of the cases have been committed by those who have no special relation to victims.
The shocking point is that almost 35 percent of the cases have been committed by those who have a relationship with the victim. For example 17 percent of sexual assault cases have been committed by relatives, around 10 percent by neighbors, 4 percent by father, 2 percent by a brother and 1 percent of sexual assaults have been committed by uncles of the victims. One percent of the cases have been committed by marriage representatives.
Honor killings due to its relation to out of marriage sexual relation, provokes sensitivities of the victim’s husband and his family members more than anyone else. Unequal and possessive status of a husband against his wife and the inferior position of women in the family of husbands make women vulnerable in the family. For this reason, the victims of honor killings are usually married women and mostly perpetrators of the killings are husbands or their family members. Honor killing of girls is usually committed by her father’s family members.
Probably there is no direct relation between perpetrator’s age and committing honor killings, but the level of this crime is higher among young people. This research shows that the level of committing sexual assaults and honor killings is very high among young persons and middle age people. It includes 82 percent of the cases. Based on the results of this research, 46.4 percent of sexual assaults and 34.9 percent of honor killing cases are committed by persons aging 19 to 30 years.
The age group of 31 to 45 years is the perpetrators of 30.2 percent of honor killings and 27.4 percent of sexual assaults. The people under 18 years old have no role in honor killings and they are responsible for 10.7 percent of sexual assaults. The age of almost 10.7 percent of perpetrators of sexual assaults and 21 percent of honor killing perpetrators is not known. It shows lack of tendency in the society to address such cases and efforts to conceal details of such crimes.
Comparing young and middle age perpetrators of sexual assaults and honor killings shows a contradiction in the behaviors of perpetrators of these two crimes. They make the majority of perpetrators of sexual assaults on one hand and on the other hand high figure of honor killings committed by them show their severe sensitivity against sexual issues and relations with their spouses.
Perpetrators of sexual assaults and honor killings are usually people with low incomes. Almost 17.6 percent of perpetrators of sexual assaults and honor killings are laborers, 14.5 percent are shopkeepers, farmers and drivers are respectively make 7.6 percent and 4.7 percent of perpetrators of sexual assaults and honor killings. Almost 11 percent of perpetrators of such crimes are jobless people.
Among them, 14.6 percent of honor killings and sexual assaults are committed by police while the police force is responsible for public security and protection of vulnerable persons. This issue can harm public confidence and trust on national police. The occupation of almost 21 percent of perpetrators is unknown.
The results of this research show that members of poor families are victims of sexual assaults and honor killings more than others. For example 58.2 percent of sexual assaults and honor killing cases collected by teams of this national inquiry belong to people living in poor families. Almost 38 percent of the victims belong to middle class families. This figure indicates severe vulnerability of women in poorer families.
Almost 91 percent of sexual assaults and honor killings cases registered during this research were transferred to justice and judicial sources as well as to other state organs. Out of them, follow up activities about 64.5 percent of the cases have been successful and considered according to the laws, but measures taken about 35.5 percent of other cases are not successful. According to these outcomes, in more than one third of the cases, judicial proceedings of sexual assaults and honor killings were not according to the laws.
Almost 67 percent of the perpetrators have been arrested by the police, but 23.6 percent of them remained at large. In 60.5 percent of the cases, offenders have been trialed and punished, but in 39.5 percent of the cases, the perpetrators and offenders have not been trialed and punished. Of course, this figure includes all cases covered by this research. Therefore, in 7 percent of the cases, while the perpetrators have been arrested, but not trailed and punished.
Causes and Context of Violence against Women:
There are several causes and factors contributing to violence against women, including honor killings and rape. There are also many patterns and cultural and traditional norms continue to provide grounds for the commotion and the continuation of violence, and justify them. These factors and patterns have been investigated in four parts: Legal- political, socio- cultural, economic and psychological factors.
I -Legal - political factors:
The Commission's findings of the national inquiry show that the followings are the most important legal - political factors that play important role in the continuation and commission of honor killings and rape crimes on which the participants of all public hearings and focus group meetings, have emphasized. (These factors are very obvious and we avoid further description and comments at this point and give reference to the full report):
- Failure to deal decisively with the perpetrators and perpetuate the culture of impunity
- Existing problems in the Laws particularly Article 398 of the Criminal Code. And lack of a clear definition of honor killing in the law and legal gaps on criminalization of honor killing
- Corruption and abuse of a position and authority
- The involvement of influential people in the investigation, and resolution of cases of violence against women by unofficial sources
- Concealment of crimes and non referral of victims to judicial organs for fear and mistrust of government organs
- Lack of accurate detection and investigation of crime due to lack of professional employees in the judicial organs and lack of modern equipment, including forensic medicine in the provinces
- Lack of necessary and appropriate coordination between the judicial organs (especially the Police, Attorney Office and Courts)
- Restricted women's access to justice (Courts, Relevant Attorney Office, Women Detention Centers)
- Presence of illegal guns and irresponsible armed groups
- Lack of security, and poor governance in district and provinces
- Lack of necessary support to victims and non observance of their rights
- Lack of public trial of offenders (lack of conduction of public judicial sessions )
II – Cultural and Social Factors
The prevalence of violence against women has its roots in the social structures and relationships as well as in the cultural patterns. These cultural patterns and norms present a special perception of women, based on which women are considered to be naïve, fallible and untrustworthy characters that are not able to properly carry out tasks – that they always go astray. Thus, they should always be dominated by men. This inhumane attitude and understanding of women and the male domineering attitude toward women pave the ground for violent behavior against them. In its cultural context, traditional relationship and rigid cultural and social norms, the Afghan society has institutionalized violence, especially violence against women and regularized it in the common and usual human relationships. Various manifestations of such a violent attitude and behavior could be seen in the culture and the social relationships in the society.
The practical aspects of such attitude, behavior and violent treatment are also prevalent in various forms. Honor killing and rape, as the most sever and obvious form of violence against women, appear, grow and continue in such a suitable cultural context and social ground. The linguistic aspects of such attitude are also rampant in the forms of saying and proverbs in the Afghan society.
- Negative views towards women: The traditional culture and norms in the Afghan society, like many other tribal societies, present various negative attitudes and views towards women and accuse them of having numerous unbecoming specifications and characteristics. In the Afghan traditional look, women are fallible, imperfect, unfaithful and untrustworthy creatures. This negative and insulting definition of women bears a great deal of consequences which affect their human value, their social status and their relationship with men. All these lead to violent behavior against women.
- The relationship between men and women: the cultural beliefs and stereotypes that society attributes to women also put women in a special position in their relationship with men – it defines a very special place for women. This way of looking at women has several connected consequences: worthlessness, devaluation, dependency on men, isolation from social activities and male dominance.
- Pattern of behavior with women and prescribing of violence: imposing restriction on women and enslavement of them, dominance of men over women and violent behavior toward women is the consequence of such attitude toward women. Honor killing and rape could also be termed as the consequences of men’s domineering relationship with women. Both as a violent behavior and as a means to dominate over women’s bodies, rape is committed by those who are not family members. However, honor killing is sought as a means of punishing women who are out of control and, establish relation with others based on their free will, or under pressure.
- Sex-based attitude toward women: Based on this attitude and view, women are considered to be merely a means to relieve or quench sex instincts or desire. This view would reduce the men’s human relationship with women to a mere relationship for sexual instincts. It means that if a woman establishes connections with others or when she talks with other or even when she goes out of the home it is inevitably sexual relation, no problem if she willingly establishes this relation or forced to do that. Based on this kind of view women are considered to be a sex prey which, on one the hand, pave the way for rape and, on the other, justify control over them in order to “maintain honor”.
- Gender-based ethics: Gender-based sensitivities in the Afghan traditional society arising from both gender and sex-based view toward issue like honor, dignity and chastity. This means that the gender-based view of “honor, dignity and chastity” terms these ethical values in connection with sex issues – they get their meanings only in terms of sex relationships. Secondly, according to the gender-based view “honor, dignity and chastity” which are basically human values are considered to be female issues – as if they are specified only for women. On the other side, honor (Ghairat), dignity and “possessing honor” are termed as male qualities. The word “Ghairat” (honor) has been defined as “Namosparasty” something like honor patriotism in the traditional culture of the society and by “honor” they also mean the female family member ( women and girls) who are dependent on men. Therefore, men are always supposed to protect their “honors” so that they will keep their own honor, dignity and self-respect.
- Concealment of rape cases and honor killing due to traditional sensitivities: Rape and honor killing incidents are often concealed; reporting about them is prevented. Due to these sensitivities, there are no clear picture about the situation and the rate of honor killing and rape in the Afghan society. In addition, when these cases are concealed, they are not legally followed up and the protection of victims and punishing of the perpetrators become limited.
- “The banality of evil” and turning of violence against women into a common practice: As stated, the specific attitude existing in the society towards women prescribes a specific social status and treatment, which in effect justify the violence against women. In such a cultural and social context, the phenomenon of violence against women becomes a common practice, thus, its obscenity is overlooked in the society. Lack of dealing with these kinds of cases by the relevant organs also contributes with the generalization of such phenomena. This traditional attitude even justifies honor killing and consider it as a right decision. The judiciary and legal approach in terms of this practice also acts in a traditional way in line with the unequal and domineering attitude towards women. Article 398 of the Penal Code washes away the obscenity of honor killing under the title “Defending the Honor” changing it to a common crime.
- Illiteracy and the low level of public awareness: An illiterate society is usually more vulnerable to crimes and offenses. In addition, it deals with such crimes in an irrational, inappropriate violent manner. The points mentioned above are more rampant in an illiterate society.
- Traditional norms of marriage in the Afghan society: The traditions and customs prevalent among the Afghan tribes also provide the ground for violence against women in the area of marriage. These kinds of marriages defines a lower social status for women in the society. The common marriage pattern among various tribes in the country are: under-age marriage, forced marriage, giving to Bad, exchange marriage, polygamy and buying and selling girls. These kinds of undesirable traditions are rooted in the biased beliefs of men in terms of women’s status in the society. The traditional view strengthens such notions with the help of wrong interpretation of Islam.
- Cultural support of violence against women in the literature: Violence against women is backed by cultural norms and social relationship prevalent in the Afghan society. Many of these models and relations have not happened spontaneously and are not specifically in the Afghan society. For instance, there are many instances in the literature of the country that upholds the traditional attitude. This significant point describes the antiquity of such attitude in the history. Furthermore, it is quite common in the entire culture of this region.
III - Economic factors:
Causes and contexts of violence against women is rooted in economic issues. The most important of these are presented below.
- Victims’ Poverty: Poverty causes families under economic pressures to get engaged in psychological trauma and as a result get involved in domestic violence. On the other hand, women and girls of poor families have to go to other people’s houses and work (cleaning and washing clothes) for a very low wages. These women and girls who will receive a small wage are highly interdependent. In such circumstances it may be pressurized and forced into prostitution or be raped. This sometimes results in the murder of women by their families. Sometimes they are killed based on the suspicion of families. Sometimes poverty itself leads to blatant prostitution, which can be considered rape.
- Economic insecurity: sometime, family members of businessmen and capitalists are kidnapped by mafia networks and kidnapper groups and then ask for money from the victim's family. This way mafia groups and gangs obtain money. This problem stems from economic insecurity in the country. If the victims are women and girls, they are, in most cases, raped as well. The victims return to their family very often leads to honor killing.
- Heavy dowry and expensive wedding: Heavy expenses of engagement and wedding ceremony and obtaining of dowry (Toyana, Walwar and Qylin) and heavy “Sherbaha” pave the ground for a dispute between families of boys and girls and even lead to hostility among the families, and finally result in hatred between the parties especially boy’s family. These disputes provide ground for family and these differences may lead to accusations of adultery, and murder such as honor killing.
- Drug addict: drug addict, brings about severe poverty because the addicted persons impose heavy costs to the families. Drug addict weakens the economic base of the families and engage persons in prostitution and causes sexual assaults and honor killing.
- Lack of women's enjoyment of inheritance rights. The inheritance right of women is a legal right through which the women are able to enjoy a better dignity and status in the family of her husband. But, unfortunately women in Afghan patriarchal society , especially in the rural areas are deprived of this right.So, women, especially when they are in husbands’ houses, they do not have the financial ability and are economically dependent on her husband. And don’t enjoy an appropriate position in the family .
IV - Psychosocial factors:
Psychological factors are also involved in the prevalence of violence against women, including rape and honor killing. These factors are described as follows:
Social exclusion and isolation is one of these factors. Isolation can provide psychological ground for engaging in sexual violence, including rape.
Unemployment, lack of jobs and depression stemming from it could also be involved in raising of this problem.
Deprivation complex is another important point that can cause behavior problems such as violence against women and rape.
Being Suspicious of women due to negative attitudes and traditional beliefs of the people toward them is another point. Sometimes the family, especially the husband's family, based on the slightest suspicion attempt murder of his wife. Such attitude limits the character and dignity of women to sexual affairs and submission to her husband’s desire.
Problems and mental disorders are one of the major and important factors in violence against women, including rape and honor killing
Men who suffer from mental health problems, appealing to traditional sensibilities and the animal ego which is rising from patriarchal attitudes, engage in rape.
Another important point is a kind of suspicion and delusions about women’s relationship with strangers. Due to the existence of hypersensitivity against sexual affairs and forcefully behavior against it, this suspicion will lead to violence and even murder.
Social and Psychological Consequences of Rape and Honor Killing:
Social and psychological consequences of rape and honor killing is considered to be the most severe forms of violence against women, Some of these consequences include:
- Consequences of Rape:
- Isolation from family and community, or a murder of victim
- Panic, feeling of shame, guilt and insecurity
- Hostility and revenge
- Social and moral deviation
2- Consequences of honor killing:
- Feeling of hatred in relatives of victims and revenge
- Restricted women's access to education, employment, and other social activities
- Fundamental human rights
- Strengthening of undesirable traditions
- Shame and disgracefulness in victim’s families, especially the victims' children
- Fair and accurate implementation of laws, and the establishment of special courts to deal with cases of violence against women in all provinces, and implementation of the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women and close monitoring of it in the Courts,
- Establishing of branches of family courts in all provinces
- Criminalization of honor killing as a murder. And appropriate punishment for the perpetrators of such crimes
- Reformation and amendment of criminal law concerning cases of rape and sexual assault to define the sexual assault and honor killings in the law
- Criminalization of rape and sexual violence by a marriage partner, and determining of appropriate punishment for the perpetrators of this crime
- Elimination of impunity, and punishment of perpetrators of honor killings and sexual assaults through establishment of monitoring and management system of judicial system by the Supreme Court
- Development of national sovereignty, and prevention of the development of informal and traditional justice systems (especially in the case of criminal and punitive offenses ) and creation of opportunities for victims to access justice;
- Planning and implementation of specific and regular programs aiming at raising public awareness about honor killings and rape cases, and emphasis on the innocence of victims of these crimes, and the need to empathize with the victim seeking to preserve the respect and dignity of victims and reintegrate his family and social life;
- The creation of clear policies and measures aimed at the protection , rehabilitation and compensation for the victims of rape;
- Review and amendment of laws that are in conflict with the human rights of women and especially women victims of honor killings and sexual assaults in accordance with the constitution and international human rights instruments;
- Strengthening economic, social and cultural infrastructure through the creation of education, employment opportunities, and fight against poverty, illiteracy and superstition
- Creation of legal facilities in marriage by eliminating undesirable customs such as obtaining dowry (Toyana)and things like that,
- Prevent forced and early marriages and observance of the condition of girls’ consent in marriage and free choice of spouse for girls,
- Providing necessary facilities for registration of marriage and divorce in the country and monitor its strict implementation;
- Accuracy in hiring police and other security agencies, and raising awareness and professional capacity and knowledge and teaching of human rights and humanitarian law standards to boost morale, accountability and respect for human rights in the minds of all the employees appointed by these organs;
- Approving of regulations and ethical codes for all officials of the government agencies to deal appropriately with women employees, and monitor its implementation;
- Prevent street disturbs, created for girls and women, by law enforcement agencies and the creation of simple mechanisms to address complaints of street disturbances.
- A serious fight against bribery and corruption, strengthening of monitoring institutions specially bodies monitoring the implementation of laws in the judicial system, and the strengthening of trust between the people and the government
- Restoration of social culture and elimination of culture of violence in the family and social life in the country
- Promoting human attitudes toward women based on the equality and dignity of human dignity among men and women and the struggle for the elimination of stereotypes and degrading beliefs toward women by the government agencies, institutes , university, mass media and civil society organizations. And strive to avoid using abusive or degrading proverbs and sayings against the women;
- Strengthening civil society and media activities in order to promote public awareness concerning women's rights and the fight against all forms of violence against women in the family and community level;
- Development and implementation of criminal, legislative, judicial, and administrative policy by the government for the protection, restoration, rehabilitation, compensation and rebuilding of dignity of victims of sexual assaults.