Skip to main content



Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one. The latest versions of country guidance documents are available at /country-guidance.

Last updated: December 2020

COI summary

Women and girls continue to suffer from gender-based violence across Afghanistan. In general, violence against women and girls is a pervasive problem, regardless of the ethnic group and is perpetrated by both private and State actors. The implementation and awareness of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law (EVAW) is described as limited. Perpetrators of attacks against women continued to enjoy impunity [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.4].

Moreover, the Taliban exacted punishments such as lashings and executions against women based on their own justice system. Extrajudicial trials against women were also documented in areas controlled by anti-government armed groups [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.8; State structure, 3.3.1.].

Large segments of the Afghan society deem domestic violence, such as wife battery, acceptable; and while rape is punishable under law, marital rape is not addressed. Women who flee their husband and seek help from the government have been known to be returned by the police to their families or to be imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’ [Society-based targeting, 3.4, 3.6.4, 3.8.4; State Structure, 3.3.1].

In some cases, women do reach shelters; however, shelter space is insufficient. The estimated number of such shelters varied between 14 and 29; and six of them were reportedly in Kabul. As these are located in the cities, it is very difficult for women from rural areas to access them. The women that reside there were in an especially vulnerable situation, often having no male support network. Safe houses and shelters are viewed by society as places of immorality, associated with ‘Western ideas’, or blamed for breaking up families or social order [Society-based targeting, 3.5, 3.8.5; Key socio-economic indicators 2017, 3.8.5].

Sexual harassment in the workplace, including in the security forces, and public harassment, including in urban areas, are common problems in Afghanistan. Acid attacks on women have also been reported, including in Kabul and Herat. Reported reasons for violent assaults against women in public include, for example, rejecting marriage proposals, seeking divorce, or going to school [Society-based targeting, 3.2, 3.4, 3.5; Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 2.2.4].

In general, women’s access to justice, courts, and legal assistance for gender-based violence is limited. Women who press charges are stigmatised and distrusted. Female victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse did not seek legal assistance either due to lack of awareness about their rights or due to the fear of being returned to their families or the perpetrators. Moreover, some female victims were reportedly demanded sexual favours by the government officials in exchange of service when they tried to report their cases to the government institutions. The few reported cases on violent incidents against women were not investigated, or women had to withdraw their complaints due to pressure. Often mediation was used instead of a legal recourse to resolve the complaints. If the perpetrator was not the husband, women victims of sexual violence, abuse or rape could also be at risk of punishment for zina [Society-based targeting, 3.5, 3.8.1, 3.8.4; State Structure, 3.3.1; Criminal law and, customary justice, 1.2; Key socio-economic indicators 2017, 3.8].

Many cases of gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls were referred to jirgas and shuras for advice or resolution, especially in rural and remote areas. Decisions made by the informal justice mechanisms were reported to frequently discriminate against women [Criminal law and customary justice, 2.3.2].

Risk analysis

Sexual assault and rape amount to persecution. In case of other forms of violence, the assessment should take into account the severity and repetitiveness of the violence.

Not all women and girls would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: perception of traditional gender roles in the family, poor socio-economic situation, family status (the risk of sexual and gender-based violence against women and adolescent girls is higher for those without a male protector, female heads of households, etc.), being in an IDP situation, type of work and work environment (for women working outside the home), etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution 

Available information indicates that violence against women may be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion or religion (e.g. when persecution is by Taliban), and/or membership of a particular social group (see examples below).

P1404#yIS1The connection may also be between the absence of protection against persecution and one or more of the reasons under Article 10 QD (Article 9(3) QD).

See other topics concerning women and girls: