Corruption and Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Fighting corruption is a prerequisite for Afghan women to gain full equality. In Afghanistan, this might be considered a complicated and daunting task but it is achievable.


The impact of corruption on the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan is too dire and too negative. Both empirical data and my professional experience in Afghanistan show that when corruption becomes rampant, the impact is greater on women and the poor.

Corruption in Afghanistan has deprived and negatively affected women’s rights in three important fields: economics, social rights, and access to justice or civil rights.

Fighting corruption is a prerequisite for women to gain full equality. In Afghanistan, this might be considered a complicated and daunting task but it is achievable. For that we need political will, capacity and a sound justice mechanism, and a better rule of law system.

Some weeks ago, I met with a woman and her lawyer who was victim of court corruption. Diwa – a young female journalist – filed with the district court in Jalalabad for the case of breaking engagement. The judge first asked her money and later asked her to marry him if she wants the court to rule in her favor.

As a brave young journalist, she brought this issue up both to the commission and to the media. Though she paid the price and was kidnapped for a week, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) helped dismiss the judge from the court system. However, the judge remains at large.

The case of Diwa and so many other similar cases in Afghanistan illustrate how women suffer because of corruption and have to endure abusive and violent conditions imposed on them in their private and public lives.

In the recent report of the AIHRC, it found that out of 2,400 cases of violence against women referred to justice mechanisms, only 400 of them were processed by the courts. What happened to the rest is a matter of huge concern. In the report, the AIHRC also finds that access to justice in 86 districts of 22 provinces the courts and justice mechanism is absent. In addition, the AIHRC finds no female lawyers in all the districts in 34 provinces.

The impact of corruption continues to take a toll on women’s rights in many other fields

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Women continue to be deprived of access to basic public services. Women’s access to education and healthcare services – although has improved significantly – does not match the dire and specific need of women to these vital commodities.

According to the AIHRC reports, more than 500 schools for girls are closed and access to health care remained below 60 percent. Some of these deprivations could be attributed to insecurity, but it is more regarded as function of mismanagement and corrupt practices of the relevant authority. To fight corruption, it is imperative to exert and show a strong political will.

The experience showed us that despite good legal framework, corruption remains rampant and endemic. Furthermore, in fighting corruption we need to focus our attention back to building a strong and independent judiciary and rule of law system.

It is also very important to mention that building the capacity of Afghanistan’s government, judiciary and parliament in fighting corruption is of paramount importance. Eradicating corruption requires time, resources and political will; but this should not be used as an excuses for delaying the implementation of the policies and strategies to fight corruption.

It is key for Kabul and the international community to honor their commitment under the mutual accountability framework, which would lead Afghanistan out of misery of corruption and mismanagement. Corruption is the enemy to all human beings; but is a brutal and sworn enemy of women.

Dr. Sima Samar, a renowned advocate of human and women’s rights, was appointed as the inaugural chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in June 2002. Prior to her appointment as the chair of AIHRC, she was elected as the vice chair of the Emergency Loya Jirga and served as the deputy chair and Minister of Women’s Affairs in the post-Taliban Interim Administration of Afghanistan IAA. She also served as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan between 2005 and 2009. Dr. Samar has participated in many international forums on human rights, democracy and transitional justice. Her contributions to the same have been widely recognized and she is the recipient of several prestigious awards.