Afghan women face jail for fleeing abuse

2012-03-28 14:08

Kabul - For Afghan women, the act of fleeing domestic abuse, forced prostitution or even being stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver by an abusive husband, may land them in jail while their abusers walk free, Human Rights Watch said.

Running away is considered a "moral crime" for women in Afghanistan while some rape victims are also imprisoned, because sex outside marriage - even when the woman is forced - is considered adultery, another "moral crime".

"From the first time I came to this world my destiny was destroyed," 17-year-old Amina, who has spent months in jail after being forced into prostitution, told researchers from Human Rights Watch in a report published on Wednesday.

Despite progress in women's rights and freedom since the fall of the Taliban a decade ago, women throughout the country are at risk of abduction, rape, forced marriage and being traded as commodities.

President’s changing position

It can be hard for women to escape violence at home because of huge social pressure and legal risks to stay in marriages.

"The treatment of women and girls accused of 'moral crimes' is a black eye on the face of the post-Taliban Afghan government and its international backers, all of whom promised that respect for women's rights would distinguish the new government from the Taliban," the New York-based group said.

"This situation has been further undermined by President (Hamid) Karzai's frequently changing position on women's rights.

"Unwilling or unable to take a consistent line against conservative forces within the country, he has often made compromises that have negatively impacted women's rights."

The influential rights organisation said that there were about 400 women and girls being held in Afghanistan for "moral crimes", and they rarely found support from authorities in a "dysfunctional criminal justice system".

Woman attacked with screwdriver

The plight of a woman called Nilofar illustrates the problem. She was stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver in the head, chest, and arms by her husband who accused her of adultery for inviting a man into the house, the rights group said.

But afterwards, she was arrested, he was not.

"The way he beat her wasn't bad enough to keep him in jail. She wasn't near death, so he didn't need to be in prison," the prosecutor of the case told Human Rights Watch.

The dire treatment of women was the main reason Western countries gave for refusing to recognise the Taliban government as legitimate when it was in power.

As Afghan and Western leaders seek a negotiated end to more than 10 years of war, the future for women is uncertain.

‘Honour killings’

The United States and Nato - who are fighting an unpopular war as they prepare to pull out most combat troops by the end of 2014 - have stressed that any settlement must ensure the constitution, which says the two sexes are equal, is upheld.

A law, passed in August 2009, supports equality for women, including criminalising child and forced marriage, selling and buying women for marriage or for settling disputes, as well as forced self-immolation, among other acts.

But women, especially in rural areas, lack shelters to flee abuse while only 1% of police are female, according to the report based on interviews from October to November with 58 women and girls as well as prosecutors, judges, government officials and civil society.

The ordeal for women does not stop with jail though.

Once leaving prison, women and girls face strong social stigma in the conservative country and may be killed in so-called "honour killings".

"I just want a divorce. I can't go back to my father because he will kill me. All my family has left me behind," 20-year-old Aisha, who was sentenced to three years for fleeing an abusive husband she was forced to marry, told researchers.

  • Africa21stcentury - 2012-03-28 15:47

    What a sick and disturbed leadership !!!!

  • Ryan - 2012-03-28 15:51

    "Moral Crime" i guess only if you are a female, amazing how some countries/ religions still class women as second class citizens.

  • Fred - 2012-03-28 16:22

    Not a word from the Taliban and Al-Quaida sympathizers. This is what the freer world is countering by being in Afghanistan, in addition to helping Afghans create their own state where there was none, from where Al-Quaida and the Taliban have been waging their war on the world that has claimed hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim lives. Wallyafrica, are you reading? Al-Quaida and Taliban women sympathizers are you reading?

  • Cassandra Olivier - 2012-03-28 16:52

    what do you expect from Muslims they treat there dogs better then there women

      Warwick - 2012-03-28 17:58

      Not to mention the barbaric practice of "Bacha Bazi" What a lovely so called religeon where you as a man can abuse and murder woman and young boys at will. Imagine a young girl being raped and beaten and then getting the blame and her own family will stick up for the man and kill her (honour killing). Stinking backward sub humans. Conservative? I dont think so. rather absolute savage bigots.

      Fred - 2012-03-28 18:20

      That's too general a belief. These are barbaric, fundamentalist Muslims that do not follow the truer teachings of Islam.

      dayaan.deskay - 2012-11-29 14:38

      These BARBARIC customs/traditions/tribal laws/country laws has got nothing to do with Islam it is condemned by Muslims as something Haraam/forbidden. With all the child molestation cases by priests do we now call this as typical Christian?

  • Malcolm - 2012-05-21 14:02

    Any father who even contemplates killing one of his children must surely be considered a disgraceful and highly immoral person; and any law or government that turns a blind eye to this despicable behaviour is equally vile and just as reprehensible.

  • LanfearM - 2012-11-29 14:19

    Once AGAIN, where are the Muslim commentators?! Where is their condemnation of this atrocious behaviour?! Hypocrites, the lot of them. Then they expect us to respect them and their sick religion and its sick and evil preachings?! Yeah right. The day you stop complaining about a civilian death in a drone bomb or about a stupid little video about your prophet, and instead start protesting the deaths of thousands of innocent and oppressed women, that day I will respect you.

      dayaan.deskay - 2012-11-29 14:51

      This has got nothing to do with Islam as a religion, these acts are condemned since it is abhorrent and got nothing to do with religion but with customs, traditions, tribal law and state law. It has got absolutely nothing to do with Islamic law. These acts are condemned by Islamic law. I don't see you complaining about all the sexual abuse cases Christian priests are perpetrating and you don't find Muslims calling all Christians sexual abusers because some priests, and there is a lot of them that are abusing young boys and girls.

  • Moi - 2012-11-29 14:46

    What is wrong with these people????? How can you not see that forcing a child into marriage is wrong? How can you not see that arresting a woman/child for running away from her husband because he beats/abuses her is completely immoral??? The term "godless nation" definitely applies.

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