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Women and children on the streets of Herat

A new era for justice in Afghanistan

In 2017 a new project launched in two provinces of Afghanistan to bring access to justice for the country’s most marginalised citizens. A recent development in the country’s penal code adds new optimism, albeit cautious, for the success of the project.

The formal justice system in Afghanistan is based upon the constitution, which upholds many of the same human rights which you find in western countries. However, the extent to which these are implemented has been varied. The UN last year reported that just 5% of cases of sexual violence against women resulted in a conviction.

On 14 February 2018, a new criminal (penal) code was introduced, reinforcing Afghanistan’s compliance with international human rights and criminal justice standards. The new penal code is far-reaching, incorporating international laws around corruption, war crimes and torture. It also specifically codifies the crime of bach bazi – which relates to sexual slavery and child prostitution, a practice reported in various parts of the country.

Yaqoob Rauf, from Christian Aid’s Afghanistan office, described the new penal code as ‘potentially ground-breaking’, but exercised some caution, especially in the likelihood of the code being adopted by Afghanistan’s informal courts.