Law students and young lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul reflects on the current posture of Afghanistan’s justice system for women in the wake of the first International Day of Women Judges, marked on March 10. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our Correspondent’s name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Afghanistan is one of the few countries where there are no female judges, attorneys, or prosecutors. Numerous women in Afghanistan have received education and training to work in judicial and prosecutorial institutions over the past 20 years, often with the help of international aid. Female students dominated law schools, and training facilities attempted to prepare both genders for careers in the legal industry.
Women were given extensive training to serve in the justice and prosecution systems. Female judges and prosecutors served as public servants in the country. Many of these trained and educated women left the country or have lived in dread after the Islamic Republic was overthrown. Over 300 women served as judges under the previous government. In more than 15 provinces across Afghanistan, female judges presided over various court divisions. As a result, women had easy access to justice in the Islamic Republic’s judicial and prosecutorial system.
Despite the fact that women are trained in law, the present bar directorate at the Ministry of Justice canceled all the bar licenses of female attorneys and continues to not accept any applications from women.
The Taliban have declared that in accordance with sharia law and principles, women should not serve as judges. According to a United Nations estimate, women make up about 40% of judges worldwide, including those in Islamic nations. Afghanistan is one of the few countries where women are no longer permitted to serve as judges as a result of Taliban policy. They are also ineligible to practice law and prosecute crimes.
This kind of justice system cannot be trusted, and Afghans’ trust in the Taliban’s justice system has undoubtedly declined. The Taliban have appointed their own men to serve as judges, prosecutors, and attorneys, many of whom lack the necessary qualifications to do so. According to the Taliban’s spokesperson, the current judicial system is adequate for carrying out justice and is not required to include women. In addition, the spokesperson for the Taliban’s Supreme Court recently told the BBC that women lack the competence and capacity to serve in the judicial and prosecution agencies and cannot uphold justice in accordance with sharia law.
After August 2021, women’s participation in the Taliban government reached zero. Given the Taliban’s rules restricting women’s lives, women’s contribution to the social and political life of the country is destroyed—at least under Taliban rule. Considering this, women cannot access justice agencies and in most areas their petitions asking for justice cannot not be heard, which will increase the deepening violence against women. Domestic violence against women has escalated since the Islamic Republic was overthrown, according to many local and international reports, and women’s ability to access the court system has been completely wrecked.
In the former government women who were victims of domestic violence and women complainers were kept in safe houses in Kabul and various parts of the country. These houses provided living space for domestic violence victims, particularly women. After August 2021, these houses are closed, and it is unknown where the women who lived there are, or how they are now being treated.