Legal certainty for all citizens

The Afghan Constitution, adopted in 2004, guarantees equal rights for men and women. This is also reflected in the international human rights treaties signed by Afghanistan. While many new laws and policy programmes adhere to the spirit of the new legal system, their implementation is slow.

Context

In practice, neither access to the law nor the interpretation of the law according to the principles of the Constitution can be guaranteed. In rural areas in particular, the reality does not meet the constitutional requirements. Illiteracy and limited access to public services make it difficult to enforce state law. Moreover, local customs define how people live together, giving priority to informal structures and traditional law over the state equivalents, and ignoring the rights of women.

Objective

Legal certainty is improved for all citizens. The Afghan Ministry of Justice and institutions at the provincial level are stronger. It is easier for women to access legal services.

Measures and results

The project is supporting the Ministry of Justice and its subordinate authorities in the provinces as they develop a new strategy to strengthen law and justice. It is also building up their planning and implementation capacities. The staff benefit from training measures, enabling them to competently evaluate the existing strategy and to design and carry out a new strategy. The new strategy will also take into account the provinces and remote districts.

Furthermore, the project supports structures that improve women’s access to the law at district level, such as direct advice centres for women. It is working in universities to improve the practical training available to students of the law and sharia faculties by supporting student advice centres known as ‘legal clinics’. Teachers at religious schools (madrasas) are trained to teach law and women’s rights.

Strengthening governmental and non-governmental offices for dispute resolution

There is a need for reliable and well-functioning judicial institutions to be adapted to the citizens’ legal needs and their everyday realities. In many places in Afghanistan, especially in remote and rural areas, informal, non-state legal structures determine how people coexist. In such places, the legal competences of both state and non-state arbitrators need to be strengthened in order to better enforce law on the basis of existing legislation and international agreements. In total, the project has provided training for around 1,400 employees of state and non-state offices for conflict resolution, in both urban and rural locations.

Free legal advice at universities

In legal advice centres at six universities in northern Afghanistan, the project is reinforcing the practical training available to students of the law and sharia faculties. In this way, in cooperation with the Legal Aid Department of the Ministry of Justice, free legal advisory services are being made available for all citizens. Between 2018 and 2019, some 878 students assisted in around 190 real-life legal cases, under the supervision of experienced lawyers. About half of those students were women.

Advice centres for women

Together with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the relevant provincial authorities for women’s rights, the project has to date set up advice centres for women in 73 districts of the northern provinces. These centres are staffed by volunteers supporting women’s rights. They disseminate knowledge about women’s rights, provide advice on state legal authorities and represent the interests of women at a non-governmental level, such as before councils of elders or in village communities.

In remote rural districts, the most important tasks of the women’s advice centres are to provide women with basic information about their rights and to help them claim those rights. Women are told which institutions they should turn to with their concerns. The centres then make the initial contact. Women can continue using the advice centres even after their initial advice session. In 2018, more than 100 centres in 73 districts dealt with about 1,400 cases. Approximately 650 of these were referred to judicial institutions. In more than 740 cases, the centre provided preliminary legal advice.

Women’s rights at religious schools

Together with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education, the project has developed a manual on women’s rights in Islam. This manual is now being used in the training of teachers at religious schools (madrasas). Its purpose is to increase the acceptance of women’s rights and to inform the teachers that women too are entitled to make use of legal services. In many parts of Afghanistan today this is far from self-evident.

At a glance

Programme:
Promoting the Rule of Law
Commissioned by:
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Partner:
Afghan Ministry of Justice
Implementing organisations:
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Provinces:
Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Jawzjan, Kabul, Kunduz, Samangan, Takhar
Programme objective:
To improve legal certainty, especially access to legal services for women, in eight provinces of Afghanistan
Overall term:
July 2009 – November 2022