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Afghanistan parliament blocks women's rights legislation

The Afghanistan parliament on Saturday blocked legislation that would have worked to strengthen women's rights in the country. If passed, the legislation would have protected provisions [AP report] of the 2009 Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) [PDF], which was originally implemented by presidential decree, from being repealed by a future Afghanistan president. The law criminalizes child marriages and forced marriages and states that rape victims should not be charged with adultery or fornication. Fawzia Koofi [official website], a lawmaker who has stated an interest in being a future presidential candidate, expressed disappointment regarding the legislation's failure, and specifically stated concerns because some women legislators voted against it. The legislation will be sent to a committee for review and may receive another vote by parliament later this year.

Women's rights in Afghanistan has been a hotly debated topic since the end of the Taliban's reign in 2001. Last February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Afghanistan to take steps to ensure that its laws protect victims of sexual abuse and do not result in their prosecution. In December 2012, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] released a report [JURIST report] saying that women in Afghanistan still faced abuse at the hands of man despite progress in implementing EVAW. In July that year, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to end violence against women and to initiate investigations into the killings of two women. In March 2012, the HRW called on the Afghan government to release women and girls imprisoned [JURIST report] in Afghanistan for "moral crimes," many of which involve flight from unlawful forced marriage or domestic violence and "zina," which is sex outside of marriage due to rape or forced prostitution.

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