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UN: Afghan women failed by justice system as mediation favored over prosecution

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's women are being failed by the country's justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with through mediation rather than prosecution, according to the United Nations.

A report released Sunday concluded that only 5 percent of surveyed domestic violence cases were resolved through the judicial system, resulting in criminal prosecution and punishment for perpetrators.

The U.N.'s assistant secretary general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, said women often choose mediation to resolve complaints of violence, partly because they lack faith in the justice system.

PHOTO: Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar, center, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, left, and Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom give a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 19, 2015. A U.N. report released Sunday said Afghanistan’s women are being failed by the country’s justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with by mediation rather than prosecution. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar, center, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, left, and Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom give a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 19, 2015. A U.N. report released Sunday said Afghanistan’s women are being failed by the country’s justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with by mediation rather than prosecution. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

"The interviews with women and girls subjected to violence revealed that negative perceptions of the justice system as slow, corrupt and distant continued to discourage women from pursuing criminal prosecution of the perpetrators," Simonovic said.

He added that access to justice for women who suffer violence needs to be improved.

The U.N. findings also indicate that the majority of women interviewed were largely concerned with logistical and financial matters — such as divorce, receiving fair alimony, custody settlements, and safe living arrangements — rather than seeking criminal prosecution. As such, mediation appeared to offer a suitable and culturally acceptable forum to discuss and address such matters.

The report reflects the experiences of 110 women and girls who were victims of violence and whose complaints were addressed through adjudication or mediation in 18 provinces between August 2014 and February 2015.

Afghanistan is regularly named as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Constitutional guarantees of equal rights and protection from violence are rarely applied in practice.

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