Trustlaw, a Thomson Reuters legal program, conducted a poll in 2012 which declared Afghanistan as one of the most dangerous countries to be living in, for women. Half decade later, the situation has only worsened. This was not always the case. In early 1960s and 1970s, Afghanistan was considered as one of the advanced countries when it came to women’s rights. It was after the intervention from Islamic fundamentalist groups, and particularly when Taliban gained power, that the tables turned and the people of Afghanistan adopted a very conservative ideology about the kind of place women held their society. Even though the Taliban were ousted from power in 2002, their merciless punishment for disobeying any law continued which meant women being continued to be harassed.
This article throws light on gross violations of women rights that shocked the conscience of the International Community at large. Cases that deal with different kinds of abuses that the women in Afghanistan face in everyday life to be able to survive beyond the category of slaves. Thereafter this article explains that how Municipal and International law, which seeks to protect women, are being rampantly violated in Afghanistan, and speculate on the possible reasons for the same. Apart from these, this article is also going to highlight the patriarchal and customary practices that lead to such atrocities on Afghani women.
Reasons for Gross Violations of Women Rights
Terrorism: One of the major factors acting as a barrier in focusing on women’s rights is the rise in number of terrorist attacks against the Afghan government, by Taliban, ISKP (Islamic State of Khorason Province), and the Afghan branch of extremist Islamic group.
Family Pressure: The report issued by the attorney general under the Elimination of Violence against Women law states that for the prosecutors, mediation is the way out, as in most cases, women are forced by their family to either lessen the charges to save the honour of the family, or to settle for less.
Widowed: Apart from this, one side of the untold story is that, after the years of Afghanistan being inclusive in wars, most of the women, whose only source of income is the dependency on their husband, are left widowed, thus, unheard of, and lost. The reason of their dependency on a male dominating figure is certainly because of no education being provided to them, thus survival for them, and their kids becomes challenging.
Customs: The most unpleasant reason for this peril is that the people of Afghanistan considering it a private affair than a criminal act, which also derails the fact that female sexuality has given a direct position to family control than to state intervention. On the other hand, consensual sex conducted after marriage, being treated as (zina) is posing a threat to the safety of women, as in most cases, instead of the propagator of the crime, the married victim is charged for adultery.
Instances of Inhuman Practices
Few cases before the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission show the brutality faced by women over past two years. Three of them are discussed below
Case 1: a seven years old defenceless girl, who was coming back from school was forcefully kidnapped and ruthlessly raped by a jinrikisha driver in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan. After the incident, the ravished child was abandoned by the perpetrator in a ruined and remote building. A passer-by who became attentive by the child’s crying picked her from beneath the ruins. A mid-wife attended to her till a technical investigation confirmed that the seven year old was raped.
Case 2: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that a woman named Souriya Y was given away for marriage at the age of 12 to resolve a family dispute. Her husband was abusive, but her father encouraged her to be patient. Nine years into the marriage, her husband accused her of running away and having sex with one of his enemies. Souriya told HRW she saw the man she was accused of running away with for the first time in court and says her husband made up the story to get rid of her and shame his rival. She was convicted and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
Case 3: “I was not interviewed at the police station. Upon my arrival, the policeman called me a prostitute and told me to leave his office. I told him he should ask what our problem is first but he didn’t listen.”
Is the disappointing story of a 24 year old, from Samangan province (February 2015).
Obligation of the State
Despite the existence of a number of laws that outlaw violence against women, the atrocities against them seems almost inevitable. The United Nations adopted The Declaration on the Elimination of violence against women in 1998 that warns against widespread violence in all sphere of the society. Afghanistan has further ratified in 2003 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that requires the Afghan government to respect the equality of men and women. Furthermore, Afghanistan is susceptible to the wrath of the International Criminal Court, which considers discrimination against women, rape, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and forced sterilization a crime against humanity if perpetrated on a widespread or systematic scale. This implies that the government of Afghanistan has the obligation to adopt and implement a policy to combat violence against women in its legal, judicial and executive structure and ensure prevention of violence against women.
A Sorry State of Affairs
Islam is pivotal to the identity of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan accordingly the Islamic laws are paramount importance which explains the prevalence of customary practices of Sharia law. The interpretation of the same by the Taliban in the most brutal manner has left the countrymen with no option but to follow the law, more in fear of the religion than in respect.
A recent historical view of women’s situation in Afghanistan reveals that women have rarely been a part of political, social and economic decision-making processes. During the Taliban period, which was infamous for its brutality, extremism and misogyny, where women were subject to gender crimes and sexual violence. Although the Taliban institutionalized gender discrimination and violence against women also existed prior to the rise of the Taliban and was used as a weapon of war by all parties of Afghanistan’s conflict. To varying extents, almost every political, ethnic, or religious group in Afghanistan has been implicated in violence, both as victim and perpetrator. Afghanistan is considered a “no country for women” by Al Jazeera.
A cry for help: The condition in Afghanistan is not something that we can approve of! These gross violations of basic human rights demand immediate attention. In Afghanistan, women still die due to physical torture, they are still forced into marriage, and then into domestic violence, basic education is still denied to them, emotional, physical, and mental torture still remains questionable in a nation as grand as Afghanistan!
Author: Shiwani Agarwal (Second Year Learner, Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA)