The way a community deals with domestic violence speaks volumes about its views on women’s rights, and in the last week, two marginalized groups of women have seen opposite sides of the coin.

Three American Indian tribes were given the authority, for the first time, to prosecute non-Indian men for dating and domestic violence crimes against Indian women.

This power will be extended to all 566 Indian tribes by March 2015 under the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, according to a Feb. 6 article in the Washington Post.

Indian tribes were prohibited from prosecuting a non-Indian defendant under a 1978 Supreme Court decision.

“This represents a significant victory for public safety and the rule of law, and a momentous step forward for tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. Holder said Native women and girls face a “shocking and unacceptably” high rate of violence.

Meanwhile, women in Afghanistan are faced with a major reversal to their rights.

A law that passed the country’s parliament last month would ban relatives of an accused person from testifying against them, according to a Feb. 11 story by CBS News.

It doesn’t specify domestic violence cases, but advocates are reading between the lines. They argue that this law is especially dangerous in a culture where women’s interactions are almost solely with family.

In practice, legal experts say, it would mean that a woman cannot testify that her uncle raped her, that a mother who sees her daughter beaten by her father or brother cannot testify, that family members witnessing a young woman being forced into marriage by her father cannot be used in a prosecution, that a sister or brother who witnesses an honor killing cannot be questioned.

The law still needs a signature from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to go into effect.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or

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Halle is executive director, editor-in-chief of PublicSource. She has served as editor-in-chief since May 2022 after seven years as managing editor during which PublicSource won two consecutive international...