Brief No. 2: Legal and justice system changes and implications for gender equality and women’s rights in Afghanistan
Author: Women, Peace and Security team, UN Women Afghanistan
UN Women is generating a Thematic Briefing Series to analyse the gender dynamics of pressing themes facing Afghanistan. These briefings weave subnational and regional elements into thematic concerns – including media restrictions, legal and justice system changes, and profile gender equality and women’s rights issues. The Thematic Briefing Series aims to provide United Nations (UN) personnel, officials from other multilateral institutions, donor representatives, and international non-governmental organization (INGO) counterparts with rigorous gender-sensitive analysis and suggestions for action.
The second thematic brief looks at the legal and justice system changes and implications for gender equality and women’s rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban take-over on 15 August 2021. While incremental progress was made prior to August 2021 to advance access to justice for women and girls in Afghanistan, there has been an observable and swift backslide. Institutions and infrastructure supporting the legal rights of women, such as legal aid and shelters, have been largely dismantled. Former judges, lawyers, prosecutors and court staff have been sidelined and almost entirely replaced by male former Taliban fighters and madrasa graduates, who do not necessarily hold academic legal education or judicial qualifications. Institutions ensuring fair trials and monitoring bodies have been abolished, with no functioning replacements established. The brief concludes that beyond the significant obstacles in the informal and formal justice system, the broader restrictions on women’s rights – especially limits on freedom of movement – make it almost impossible for women and girls to access justice.