Intercultural Human Rights Law Review


Tara S. Neal

First Page



As a woman working in rule of law in Afghanistan, I was confronted on a daily basis by what it means to be female and the severity of those constraints. This realization began every morning with the choice of what to wear. The daily task of dressing myself in a manner that protected my safety, security, and reputation gave me a tiny glimpse into the lives of Afghan women. I discovered how law is used to reinforce traditional and cultural beliefs and the grave injustices served on Afghanistan's women and girls. I also discovered how vast sums of foreign money and concentrated effort by scores of legal experts aimed at fixing these injustices had made little impact. Out of these experiences grew an intense desire to find a practical and effective method for working on rule of law that would actually yield positive results for my Afghan sisters. This article describes my search and ultimate discovery of the applicability of the world travelling methodology in the Afghan context. World travelling was developed by Law Professor Isabelle Gunning in response to failed attempts to use law to stop female genital mutilation. Gunning argued that the use of law to criminalize harmful cultural practices may actually harm women. Gunning's method gives the practitioner a means to evaluate and develop a practical approach to achieving greater success to stop these practices. Drawing on my three years of experience in Afghanistan, I apply Gunning's method to the prosecution of Afghan women and girls for moral crimes. I describe how rule of law efforts have been largely unsuccessful and suggest alternatives that may yield better results for future generations of Afghan women and girls.