Mission accomplished? Afghan women jailed for "running away"
It’s a joy to hear that the more than sixteen billion dollars in foreign aid we have invested in Afghanistan in just the last four years, let alone the unrelenting occupation of that unfortunate country, have at least bought a fair and equitable judicial system. The first solid proof of this came last December, when President Hamid Karzai announced that he would pardon a jailed woman accused of rape provided that she marry her attacker. The man had impregnated her and she gave birth in prison. Who knows how many years in the slammer she would have gotten otherwise. A bargain, wouldn’t you say?
Now news is coming out of Afghanistan that a full seventy percent of Afghan women being held in prison have been jailed for the crime of running away from abusive households. According to women’s affairs minister Husn Banu Ghazanfar, “Forced marriages, difference in age of couples, violence, divorce comments and several other issues are the main motives which force Afghan girls and married women to flee from their homes.”
And yet, the offence of running away from a violent husband isn’t even listed in the Afghan law books. Fawzia Koufi, chief of the Afghan parliamentarian commission for human rights, civil society and women’s affairs, told the Khaama Press: “This is a major issue and women are jailed over adultery after escaping from their home. If the government does not have a specific law in this regard then it should be referred to us in order to modify a regulation in a bid to clarify the rules and prevent misunderstanding and misuse by Afghan attorney and police regarding the Afghan women.” Good luck with that, sister.
According to figures collected by the International Centre for Prison Studies in 2011, upwards of 600 women are currently being held in Afghan government prisons.
The status of women is evolving swimmingly in other areas as well, as laid out in a new female code of conduct President Karzai endorsed in March of 2012. According to it, "women should not travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with strange men in places such as schools, markets and offices. Beating one's wife is prohibited only if there is no 'sharia-compliant reason,' referring to the principles of Islamic law."Of course, we’re always told that women’s rights will fall into the toilet if NATO leaves Afghanistan “before the mission has been completed,” but it looks to me like they’re already there – and are flushing down fast. Mission accomplished, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama?
Image source: Aghanistan Women's News