EVAW Law Necessary for Sustainable Peace in Afghanistan

Senator Mobina Jaffer
August 09, 2013

The Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law was celebrated as a major step forward for women’s rights in Afghanistan. The EVAW law was passed by a legislative decree by the President in 2009, and although it is legally binding, it has not been ratified by parliament. The law criminalizes 23 acts of violence against women, including child marriage, forced marriage, rape, and physical abuse, while also identifying punishment for the perpetrators.

Despite the law being enacted and successfully implemented in a few Afghan courts, women in Afghanistan continue to face extreme acts of violence in their everyday lives while the perpetrators enjoy impunity. In order to provide legitimacy to the EVAW law and ensure widespread implementation across all levels of the police force, judiciary and the government, it is crucial that the EVAW law is ratified in the Afghan parliament.

An attempt to gain parliamentary approval was made in May, when the EVAW law was brought forward in the Afghan parliament to be ratified. The backlash by conservative Members of Parliament and the youth protests that occurred in response to the law are clear indicators that women’s rights in Afghanistan are under threat. This raises concerns for the stability and prosperity of the nation as a whole.

Implementing the EVAW law across all sectors – and ultimately ending violence against women - is not only important for women but for all of Afghan society. The future stability and prosperity of Afghanistan depend on women having an active role and voice in rebuilding their country. Women have shown their existing strength and commitment to shaping Afghanistan’s future in numerous ways, including exercising their right to vote and running for public office. However, as a result of the persistent violence they face, women are often risking their lives in their efforts. This is unacceptable and seriously hinders their ability to engage in political and social processes to their full potential.

If women cannot reach their full potential, the future of Afghanistan will also not reach its full potential, nor will any possibility for sustainable peace or development be achieved. The UN Women representative in Afghanistan, Ingibjorg Gisladotti, has stated, “It is imperative for the development of Afghanistan that women are able to exercise their rights and be free from violence in their homes and workplaces.”

Canada has had significant diplomatic, military and development presence in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2001. The promotion of women’s rights has been always been a key priority for our involvement in Afghanistan. Canada, along with the rest of the international community, has great expectations for the Afghan government on living up to their international and domestic obligations on women’s rights. An absolutely critical step in achieving this is ratification of the EVAW law within the Afghan parliament as it will clearly indicate the government’s commitment to ending the violence women face every day in Afghan society. The EVAW law is crucial for women to freely exercise their rights - empowering them to be full and active participants in rebuilding their nation and ultimately achieving sustainable peace.  


PN Member Senator Mobina Jaffer represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. Appointed to the Senate on June 13, 2001, she is the first Muslim senator, the first African-born senator, and the first senator of South Asian descent. Senator Jaffer also sits as a member of the Senate’s Anti-terrorism and Legal and Constitutional Affairs committees.


Photo by United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan.

Women’s rights activists on May 16, 2013, urged the Afghan Parliament to endorse the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law, which was enacted in 2009 through a presidential decree but has yet to receive parliamentary approval. The law criminalizes 22 acts of violence, including rape, forced prostitution, child marriage and honour killings.

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