Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) launched the FIRST ever website, HarassMap through a conference on May 3, 2016 with participation civil society activists, women’s rights activists, National Unity Government (NUG) representatives, MPs, international organizations and academic experts. This conference, as participants applauded in many ways due to creativity, innovation and inclusion of many supportive ways to end sexual harassment in Afghanistan, also was appreciated by national and international media. The basic goal for launching this website was to introduce and publicize the website for the participants as well as the media and to ask peoples’ attention and support to file sexual harassment reports with the website if they are subjected to any type of sexual harassment.
In this conference Mrs. Zarqa Yaftali, WCLRF’s director talked about the organizations’ activities and innovations carried out during the past two years. According to her, WCLRF conducted many researches, and implemented many awareness raising programs both in Kabul and remote areas of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, she added that establishing and launching the website would enable sexual harassment victims to file reports without letting the others know about their identity. She added that during the past years hundreds of sexual harassment cases have been identified throughout Afghanistan and women have been subjected to sexual harassment by strangers as well as their trustee relatives. Based on findings WCLRF’s research; 2015 nowhere is safe for women, she said. “Establishing, launching and introducing the HarassMap website is the initial activity and we strongly ask for your support and companionship to end sexual harassment in public places, educational environments, and working areas,” she added.
Mr. Mohammad Ali Fakur, talked about the reasons and the function of HarassMap website that how it would help the victims and bystanders to take action, file a report and get various helps provided by WCLRF. “During the advocacy processes for criminalizing the sexual harassment and making efforts to convince the relevant decision-making authorities, WCLRF found out that most of those authorities did not believe in the existence of sexual harassment in a very large scale in order to be criminalized,” said Fakur. “Meanwhile, they believed that due to ruling the conservative traditional culture structures, or social sensitivity against sexual harassment as an established doctrine, it is not worth to speak up about or to criminalize it. The research findings on the other hand stated that no case associated with sexual harassment has been filed with judicial organizations or any perpetrator thanks to sexual harassment has been subject to trial. Therefore, WCLRF made efforts to document sexual harassment cases and highlight those primitive actions in order to gain the public’s credence, especially the local influential, religious actors, and decision-making authorities. Although WCLRF conducted many researches regarding this disgraceful phenomenon and shared the findings with decision-making authorities, the HarassMap website was created aiming to document the victims or bystanders’ experience and enable them to share their stories regardless to any bad consequences.”
- Document sexual harassment cases;
- Convince the decision-making authorities along with local influential, religious actors and etc. referring to the findings of this website;
- Enable the victims or bystanders to file a report with HarassMap and /or Police investigation offices;
- Guide and provide consultancy for sexual harassment victims;
- Guide and provide legal aid services and advocacy for sexual harassment victims.
Mr. Fakur also added that meaningful efforts have been initiated and carried out by WCLRF since 2014 aiming to criminalize sexual harassment and then to put these legislations in action. WCLRF succeeded to establish a committee of women’s rights activists named “Improved Coordination against Sexual Harassment” and eventually persuaded the National Unity Government to enact and then reinforce the anti-sexual harassment against women and girls in Afghanistan.
It is expected that the HarassMap website provides a reliable ground for those of who have experienced or witnessed the sexual harassment cases to record their stories and to provide technical and legal supports to defend and reduce sexual harassment in the workplace, educational environment and etc. He also explained the menu bars, types of supports can be served through this website and the contents available in the website. More importantly the website could be an effective tool that empower women and girls to work in terms of cultural development of the society.
The next part of the conference was allocated for the panelists from Presidential Office representative, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Women Affairs, Member of Parliament, and Kabul University professor. The panelists talked about the role of HarassMap on reducing sexual harassment throughout Afghanistan, the commitment of their relevant organizations, and how to take more effective actions in the future. For example, Shahla Farid, Kabul university professor stated that HarassMap is not a Law, nor a regulation to end sexual harassment, but acts as threatening tool for anyone who knows the strength of protective websites throughout the world. “This website will play an active role for documenting the cases related to sexual harassment and also it will culturally be effective to empower both the perpetrator/s and the victim/s. If the Police investigation offices are asked to collect all the perpetrators of sexual harassment, thousands of people will be arrested, detained and imprisoned, but HarassMap website will help them to provide psychological and legal consultancies and self-defense classes to mentally support them.”
The conference was ended with Question and Answer Session about the functions, services provided through website and future action intended to be taken.