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Women in Herat ITL June news

A bold venture bringing justice to Afghans

The latest ITL project to be approved is potentially the most pioneering and high risk venture we have embarked on since the programme started in 2009.


Working with our partner agency Coordination of Rehabilitation and Development Services for Afghanistan (CRDSA) the project aims to transform Afghanistan's legal system - and in doing so provide hundreds of thousands of marginalised women, men and children with fair access to justice.

Infographic showing project summary
A failing legal system

Years of conflict decimated Afghanistan’s formal legal system.

There have been various improvements made since the defeat of the Taliban in 2003, but these have often been uncoordinated. As a result, courts are slow, ineffective and open to corruption.

Increasingly, citizens turn to a local Jirga – a group of local male elders who interpret the Quran in order to arrive at a verdict. It’s reported that 80% of all disputes across Afghanistan are settled in this manner.

Jirga have the benefit of being swift, more sensitive to the local culture and less susceptible to corruption. However, the sentences passed commonly infringe on human rights, especially those of women. For example, a woman from the convicted person’s family can be forced to marry into the victim’s family by way of punishment.

Alarmingly, in some areas of the country, people are even turning to Taliban-run Jirga, where sentences are even harsher.

Citizens suffer, especially in rural areas, by not knowing their rights or where to go to get justice.

Justice for women

It's reported that 87% of women in Afghanistan suffer some form of violence in their lives.

The country has obligations under international law to take necessary actions to prevent, protect against and respond to violence against women.

However, in a recent study by the UN, just 5% of cases of violence against women resulted in punishment for the accused. And this is just in the formal courts.

Women often opt to go through the male-dominated local Jirga, as in the case of Latifa, whose story is told in this BBC video.

A compelling, yet high risk, proposal

Initially, this project sought the support from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. They considered it a preferred bid with a significant potential, not least because of CRDSA’s strong reputation. However, the deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country resulted in hesitancy about proceeding. This is when ITL stepped in to adopt the project, given its innovative and higher-risk nature.

Why has this project been chosen by ITL?

ITL identifies and transforms deep-seated imbalances of power between communities and the different society in which they live. With a strong, existing portfolio of projects working with markets, religious institutions and tackling violence, we have decided to increase our reach to include justice systems.