02/18/2014, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Karzai announces changes to a bill that bans prosecution of violence against women

In its current form, the bill does not allow family members to testify against relatives, making it nearly impossible to prosecute cases of domestic abuse.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The government of Afghanistan announced changes to a bill that human rights activists have described as a threat to the prosecution of violence against women.

On Monday, an amendment to the criminal procedure law, passed by parliament last year, was presented, changing a provision that prohibits "relatives of the accused" from testifying in a court of law because it would make the prosecution of domestic abuse cases near impossible.

In a statement, presidential palace spokesperson Aimal Faizi said the cabinet had decided that a new "Afghan criminal prosecution code won't come into force unless new amendments are made".

"This law will not bar any relative or any family member to testify against each other or another member of their family," Faizi said. "They will have the freedom."

According to Manizha Naderi, executive director of Women for Afghan Women, the failure to amend the original draft was a signal to the Taliban, a hint to them that the country was "getting ready for the return of the Taliban".

Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch's Afghanistan researcher, has maintained a guarded optimism about the calls for amendments.

Nevertheless, the original draft was but one instance in a "broader pattern of attacks" on women's rights by the Afghan government, she explained.

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