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2.12. Individuals perceived to have transgressed moral codes



Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one.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

This profile refers to individuals whose actions or status are perceived as transgressing moral codes and as shameful to family honour.

COI summary

Honour-based violence, especially but not exclusively against women, is a common occurrence in Afghanistan. The accusation of dishonour against a woman alone can bring perceived shame to the family. The Penal Code prescribes less severe punishments for killings done to defend honour. Offenders of attacks against women often enjoy impunity [State structure, 3.3.1; Society-based targeting, 3.7, 7.2].

Zina is a moral crime perceived in Afghanistan as shameful and can be applied to women, as well as to men. This is a broad concept of all behaviour outside the norm: sex outside marriage, illicit sexual relations, adultery and pre-marital sex. Zina can also be imputed to a woman in case of rape or sexual assault. It can lead to death threats and honour violence, including honour killings. Zina is punishable under both the Penal Code and the Sharia. Prosecution for zina affects women to a larger degree; punishment is also harsher for women. It is reported that during 2019, those detained for ‘moral crimes’ continued to be primarily women [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.2; Society-based targeting, 3.5, 3.6].

Individuals and couples found to have committed zina are commonly sentenced by government courts to imprisonment and corporal punishments are carried out. In 2019, there were reports of criminal charges based on interpretations of Islamic law, for example reports of officials charging women and men with immorality or running away from home, and reports of police often detaining women for zina at the request of family members. In rural areas, where the government has less or no control, there have been reports of extrajudicial punishments by insurgent groups, such as the Taliban, and local powerbrokers, including executions, lashings and beatings [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.2, 1.6, 1.8; State structure, 3.3.1; Society-based targeting, 3.6.5].

Women seeking protection face deficiencies in the implementation and awareness of relevant laws, as well as a gender-biased and discriminatory justice system. Women who flee home are often brought back to their family by the police or are imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’. In detention, they face further sexual abuse or harassment by officials [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.6; Society-based targeting, 3.6.4, 3.8.4; State structure, 3.2. See also the section 2.11.1 Violence against women and girls: overview ].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. imprisonment, corporal punishment and killing).

The State could potentially be considered an actor of persecution. Persecution could also be by insurgent groups, as well as by the family and/or by society in general, as there is a low societal tolerance in Afghanistan for transgressing moral and honour codes.

Not all individuals under this profile 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: gender (the risk is higher for women, including with regard to the absence of protection), area of origin (particularly affecting rural areas), conservative environment, perception of traditional gender roles by the family, power/influence of the actors involved, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of religion and/or (imputed) political opinion or membership of a particular social group. The latter could be based on common background which cannot be changed (perceived past behaviour) and a distinct identity in the context of Afghanistan, linked to their stigmatisation by the surrounding society.

P1475#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).