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Last update: December 2020
*Minor updates added November 2021

Due to limited recent information on the topic, the analysis within this section has not been updated in the current version of the country guidance. When examining the international protection needs of women, please consider the most up-to-date country of origin information concerning the Taliban’s policy towards women.

An element to take into account is that it is not currently clear whether the Taliban government intends to adhere to international treaties that Afghanistan has previously entered into. Similarly, there is no clarity regarding the status and relevance of pre-existing national laws.

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. Even before the Taliban takeover, the implementation and awareness of the Elimination of Violence Against Women law (EVAW) was described as limited. Perpetrators of attacks against women continued to enjoy impunity [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.4].

The Taliban exacted punishments such as lashings and executions against women based on their justice system [Criminal law and customary justice, 1.8; State structure, 3.3.1.]. In an incident on 4 August 2021 in the village of Samar Qandian, Balkh, the Taliban reportedly killed a young woman for wearing tight clothing and not being accompanied by a male relative [Security September 2021, 2.5].

Large segments of the Afghan society deem domestic violence, such as wife battery, acceptable; and while rape was punishable under law, marital rape was not addressed. Women who fled their husband and sought 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, 3.5, 3.6.4, 3.8.4; State Structure, 3.3.1].

In some cases, women did reach shelters; however, shelter space was reportedly insufficient. The estimated number of such shelters varied between 14 and 29; and six of them were in Kabul. As these were located in the cities, it was very difficult for women from rural areas to access them. The women that resided there were in an especially vulnerable situation, often having no male support network. Safe houses and shelters were 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 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 included, 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].

Already before the Taliban takeover, women’s access to justice, courts, and legal assistance for gender-based violence was generally limited. Women who pressed charges were 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. 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 there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: being seen as having committed acts punishable under the Sharia, type of work and work environment (for women working outside home), 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, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution 

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