News - Afghanistan
Around 70 percent of Afghanistan's female prisoners are in jail for running away from home despite the act not being a crime under the law, according to the parliamentary committee on women's affairs director Fawzia Koofi.
A meeting on Sunday of representatives from the government committees of women's affairs, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Justice agreed that sending a woman to court for "escaping" home was wrong.
The Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghalib said at the meeting that the Judicial Council has made it clear that running away from home should not be prosecuted.
"Based on the laws [of Afghanistan], escaping home is not a crime," he said. "This subject is concluded by the Judicial Council. It is wrong for prosecutors and police to send cases of such incidents to the courts."
Deputy Minister of Interior Baz Mohammad Yarmand said that the police have been told that it is not a criminal offence.
"I cleared this issue to the police that escaping home is not a crime. I even sent a letter to few organisations to take notice of this issue," he said at the meeting.
Women are not fleeing their homes for no reason – usually it is because of violence or forced marriage, attendees said.
"Escaping from home is often the result from family violence. We have seen incidents in which the mother-in-law has done violence to the girl, or the husband or other family members have behaved violently towards the girl," Minister of Women's Affairs Hassan Banoo Ghazanfar said.
Koofi described the situation and condition of the prisoners as distressing and lamented the failure to review cases, adding that there are severe objections to the fact that so many women have spent years in prison for unclear reasons.
"There should be a revision of cases enforced in the penal code so that there is no possibility of mistreatment by the judges," Koofi said.
Director of the senate committee of women's affairs Siddiqa Balkhi agreed.
"In a review of some cases, we observed there was the case of a 70-year-old woman which had not been considered yet," Balhki said.
The meeting comes as provincial departments of women's affairs report more violence against women and girls.
Most recently, a teenage girl was lashed by mullahs in the Gaghoori District of Ghazni Province for an "illegal relationship" with a young man, and two girls in Ghor Province were lashed in public because they attempted to run away from home.