Over the years, SAHR has been drafting and promoting gender equal interpretations of Islamic law and International law by disseminating and training lawyers on over 50 landmark rulings on women’ rights in family and criminal law and the scholarship of Sisters in Islam, Women Living Under Muslim Law, MUSAWAH and Karamah Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
We also disseminated and trained lawyers on international jurisprudence on sexual violence in war contexts from the International Criminal Court Tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.
As a result of our expertise in, SAHR has submitted expert opinions in the courts of USA and Switzerland in two individual persecution cases relating to Shariah law in Libya and Afghanistan respectively.
We collaborated with 30 judges, professors, and lawyers to research and advocate for gender-equitable interpretations of rape laws under Islamic law, particularly to end the prosecution and imprisonment of rape victims for the crime of adultery. The rape law was finally amended in 2017.
We contributed legal opinions towards the drafting of the first-ever Elimination of Violence Against Women Law 2009 in Afghanistan. The law was passed in 2009.
In 2010, at the request of the Afghan Family Law Drafting Committee, we reviewed the initial draft of the family bill together with renowned professors of law including Professor Mohammad Fadel, Assistant. Professor Kecia Ali, Professor Ayesha Shahid and Professor Rebecca Probert and in consultation with international organizations (the bill was never passed due to objections by Parliament).
In 2013, we drew upon our legal research to raise awareness of women’s rights to property and inheritance among 300 community members in two Afghan provinces, Kabul and Jalalabad, jointly with a local organization, Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF).
In 2014, SAHR drafted amendments to Criminal Procedure Code 2014 to incorporate protection measures for minor, at-risk and vulnerable witnesses and victims, to ensure they would be protected for participating in the justice process.
2012 - 2014
Between 2012 to 2014, we led a series of training on strategic litigation for Afghan women human rights lawyers, on how to use Shariah law in child custody cases, rape cases, adultery, divorce due to harm and domestic violence. Through the training, we facilitated mock trials and map defense arguments and the counterarguments. Within 6 months, the lawyers were able to obtain the release of rape victims from prison or reduced sentences in 19 cases and obtain divorce for 36 cases of domestic violence.
In 2015, we investigated the enforced disappearances of men in Kashmir by insurgent groups and the Indian army in the wake of Kashmir’s fight for independence, and the effect of these disappearances on the wives of these men, also known as ‘half-widows’. Then, we created comics to explain how these women could obtain compensation from the Indian government.
In 2016, we submitted arguments to repeal the honor defense from the old Afghan Penal Code (used to acquit perpetrators of murders of women deemed to have “dishonored” her family). The honor defense was abolished in the new Penal Code of 2017.
2016 - 2020
Between 2016 - 2020, SAHR directors were also instrumental in the drafting and advocacy of new laws and provisions in Afghanistan to safeguard the rights of survivors of violence under the Anti-Harassment Law 2016, Elimination of Violence Against Women Law 2009, and, Penal Code 2017. They spearheaded national advocacy to prohibit virginity testing by law, engaging with police, prosecutors and judges on the same. They coached other lawyers to bring test cases in court to prohibit the use of forensic reports on virginity - some of which were successful and stopped the referral of women for virginity examination by police, prosecution and judiciary. Virginity testing was later prohibited by law under the Penal Code of 2017.
Through our sister organisation, WJO, SAHR directors also provided technical support to the Ministry of Higher Education in Afghanistan on sexual harassment and gender-based violence policy in higher education. This led to the passing of a nation-wide higher education policy known as ‘Gender Strategy and Policy to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence’ on 13 August 2021, to recognise and address the causes and consequences of sexual harassment across all 39 higher education institutions across Afghanistan.
2019 - 2021
Through WJO, SAHR directors also initiated the largest investigation and prosecution of sex offences committed by druglords, warlords, politicians, teachers and education administrators in Afghanistan’s legal history. The cases known as “Case of Logar Pedophile Ring” and “Case of Afghanistan Football Federation '' were reported across several international papers such as the New York Times, Guardian and others. SAHR directors were involved in the investigation of those cases, searching for victims and witnesses to come forward, applying and arranging for their protection, interviewing them and taking their statements, documenting evidence, designing the legal strategy for the case, drafting legal arguments, preparing court submissions and building a strategic alliance of local and foreign organizations, and advocating in court. During this period, we built alliances with Facebook and Google (Youtube) to remove offensive content made by the perpetrators in that case to defame rape victims. We also worked with the International Football Federation (FIFA) to build international advocacy for justice, protect victims and at-risk witnesses from threats and intimidation, and advocate for legal protections to rape victims (such as use of pseudonyms and safeguarding from cross-examination) amongst other things.
2020 - 2021
In 2020-2021, SAHR worked with Yasmine Bjornum, a human rights defender and founder of Sista- a charitable organization based in Vanuatu to take on the case of two survivors against a well-known ni-Vanuatu doctor who abused his position of power and trust to sexually assault them (and several others who did not want to come forward). SAHR’s intervened to support Yasmine to hold the Vanuatu Prosecution Offices accountable for delaying the investigation. After a year’s work, the Prosecution Offices expedited and completed the investigation and a trial date was finally set to try the doctor.
2019 - 2020
SAHR has also taken up some high-profile international sex offence cases. In 2019, SAHR represented Ms. Sabrina Prioli, an Italian humanitarian aid worker who survived conflict-related rape in Juba, South Sudan during a breakout of civil war between the South Sudan army and rebel groups in 2016. Her mission: to bring justice to her case, to move governments and multi-lateral institutions to recognise rape as a weapon of war and take practical actions to safeguard victims’ right of reparations. Through 2019, SAHR negotiated reparations with the government of South Sudan to ensure that they fulfill their international legal obligations to remedy her as a victim of armed conflict. The negotiation with the South Sudan government was beset with difficulties due to a fledgling transitioning government, long history of impunity and political unwillingness to be accountable towards victims of war crimes. SAHR succeeded in its work and in 2022, reparations were granted, setting an important precedent for the recognition of reparations for conflict related sexual violence, and, paving the way for justice and accountability for thousands of other South Sudanese survivors.
In 2020, SAHR delivered workshops on “Tactical Approaches to Combating Sexual Violence” to 15 WHRDs from Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria, Nepal, Syria, Pakistan, and, Egypt. The workshops tackled three topics: Debunking Rape Myths and Stereotypes, Investigating Sexual Violence and Approaching Reparations Holistically. 73% of the participants expressed that even in situations where they knew elements of the topics discussed during the workshop, they gained new insights on how to handle SGBV crimes and that the most beneficial elements of the workshop were feminist interpretation of case laws.
2020 - 2021
In 2020 and 2021, SAHR conducted extensive research on rape laws in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India and Kosovo to participate in study by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against women Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, to criminalize and prosecute rape as a grave and systematic human rights violation and harmonise rape laws globally. SAHR was thoroughly thanked for producing those reports which culminated in a model legislation on rape law. SAHR’s country reports were published on the UN SR’s website.
Finally, for the last decade we have been amplifying the voices of human rights defenders through ARTIVISM—art and activism united to express our commitment to gender justice—visual and performative arts, documentary film screening, and storytelling circles. Some of this work can be viewed on our IG page