KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (19 December 2018) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in partnership with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan and the Attorney General’s Office, trained 140 judges and prosecutors on laws specific to gender sensitization, access to justice, and violence against women.

The training, held from 10–18 December, was supported by Afghanistan’s Chief Justice Mr. Sayed Yousuf Halim and Attorney General Mr. Saranpooh Mohammad Farid Hamid. Part of ADB’s Law and Policy Reform Program, the training was customized to the needs of the Afghan judiciary and prosecutorial services following interviews with more than 100 judges and prosecutors from around Afghanistan earlier this year. It consisted of 10 modules covering an understanding of gender sensitization, Afghan laws, Islamic Shariah, international law, and human rights law.

The interactive workshops focused on the unconscious biases that people (including judges and prosecutors) may have regarding gender roles in society. For instance, most participants associated the words “brave”, “manager”, and “strategic thinking” with men, and “washing”, “cooking”, and “sympathetic” with women. The trainers highlighted that the gendered perception of these words is not intrinsic to human nature but a social construct—after all, women can be brave as men can be sympathetic.

Through this lens, the team of trainers examined the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Law and its relationship with both the Old Penal Code and the New Penal Code. General doctrines and principles, offenses, and penalties covered under these laws were discussed in detail. The trainers noted that Islamic law, Afghanistan’s constitution and laws, and international human rights law all promote the dignity of women and girls.

The program also covered issues relating to compensation and mediation, and shared international best practices on appropriate conduct for lawyers and judges in a courtroom.

The Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office selected participants from all 34 provinces in Afghanistan to attend the training.

They were trained by a high-level ADB team led by its Principal Counsel of Law and Policy Reform, whose project won the 2018 Financial Times Innovation in Rule of Law and Access to Justice Award. The other members of the team were a former Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia and currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia; International Human Rights expert and Islamic scholar, currently adjunct professor at George Washington University; Human Rights, Women Rights, and Access to Justice Advocate from Afghanistan; an award-winning anthropologist and filmmaker whose documentary on compensation marriages in Pakistan contributed to having the custom declared illegal by the Supreme Court; and Senior Legal and Policy Specialist from ADB.

The team said they will continue the reform work with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan under the leadership and guidance of the Chief Justice.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

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