The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2019/280) issued on 29 March 2019.

Chronic instability, gender inequality, displacement, inadequate services, access constraints and discriminatory practices fuelled the underreporting of conflict-related sexual violence across Afghanistan. In 2018, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 37 cases of sexual violence against women and girls. Five rapes and one forced marriage were verified as having been committed by parties to the conflict, including members of the Taliban and an unidentified illegal armed group. In five of the six cases, the accused were prosecuted and convicted, as a result of positive steps taken by the authorities. UNAMA also verified two cases of sexual violence against boys by members of the Afghan National Police. One case involved bacha bazi, by which young boys are “kept” by typically older powerful men. Though bacha bazi is criminalized, prosecutions of cases involving the practice are rare and the practice remains common. The revised Penal Code, which entered into force in February 2018, includes forms of conflict-related sexual violence as a war crime, crime against humanity and constitutive act of genocide. In August, UNAMA organized a dialogue with the Government, Afghan military and police forces, international military forces and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to develop strategies for combating impunity for sexual violence. Following the launch in May 2018 by UNAMA of a report, entitled “Injustice and Impunity: Mediation of Criminal Offences of Violence against Women”, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs established a technical committee to review the Elimination of Violence against Women Law of 2009 (see A/73/624-S/2018/1092) and align its “rape” definition with that of the Penal Code of 2018. Unfortunately, the national police demonstrated limited capacity to address sexual crimes in 2018, partly as a result of low numbers of female officers (at present, 1.8 per cent of the force). The delay in finalizing and operationalizing the sexual harassment complaint mechanism for policewomen also contributes to underreporting of sexual violence incidents. During the reporting period, UNAMA convened several meetings with relevant Government departments to advocate the finalization of the sexual harassment complaint mechanism.

Recommendation

I commend the efforts of the authorities in prosecuting cases of sexual violence and urge that such efforts are strengthened. Further, I am encouraged by efforts to review the Elimination of Violence against Women Law of 2009. I urge the Government to meet its obligation to protect victims from all forms of sexual violence and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. I encourage the authorities to promote women’s active and equal political, social and economic participation and to put an end to the stigmatization of victims by promoting substantive equality and enacting laws and policies that prohibit discrimination against women. I further call upon the Government to ensure the full investigation and prosecution of all reported cases of bacha bazi, including those perpetrated by the Afghan National Police and the military.

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