Instead of going to the government, residents in rural areas are turning increasingly to traditional tribal law or to the religious courts to resolve legal disputes.
One of the most common disputes now being solved by either local clerics or tribal elders involves divorce.
There are a number of reasons this is happening, explains Mursal Ahmadzai, who heads the women's rights section at the Independent Human Rights Organisation office in Kandahar. These include fear of corruption and long delays in decision making in the courts.
Even the most simple cases seem to take months to resolve through official judicial channels, say Kandahar locals. That's why they're looking for alternatives.
One local woman, Sharifa, says she took her divorce case to the village mosque because her husband had asked the official courts to delay the proceedings. “My husband is addicted to drugs and I have two children,” Sharifa says. “I was forced to marry this man and I've had a very bad life with him. I have no other choice but to divorce him.”
“On average we get one or two divorce cases a day at the court,” says Del Aqa Hemat, chief judge at Kandahar's Court of Appeal. “But the same amount of divorce cases are being resolved by clerics and tribal elders. It is a common thing and the cases are being decided using principles of religious law.”
Hemat rejected criticisms that the cases simply took too long to go through the official system. “When a case is referred to us we try to resolve it in good time,” he insists. “I don't believe that locals are going to mosques and elders because of this. The residents of Kandahar have been solving their problems in this way for a long time.”
Additionally, Hemat says he doesn't mind where the cases are being decided as long as somebody is investigating them. He also expressed concern about the rising number of divorce cases in the area.
There are many reasons for the increases in divorces, says Roqia Achakzai, the Director of Women's Affairs for Kandahar: violence, mothers-in-law, forced marriages of underage girls, addictions, financial problems and personal problems between the husband and wife, among them.
One of the main reasons is that often the man and woman do not know each other personally before they marry. Marriages are often arranged in rural areas and sometimes, even arranged without the knowledge of the prospective spouses, who may find themselves living with a stranger.