A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week has shown how hundreds of women and girls are being imprisoned for committing “moral crimes” including running away from forced marriages, rape or domestic violence. Almost half of all women in Afghan prisons are being held, who will have no doubt chosen to escape being punished by the legal system for reporting the crime inflicted upon them.
Reports this week have also revealed how parents are continuing to practise the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh – disguising their daughters as boys in order to avoid the inevitable shame inflicted upon families for failing to have sons. Earlier this year an Afghan woman was strangled by her husband and mother-in-law for giving birth to a girl and many women are abused if they fail to give birth to boys. This results in an often psychologically damaging return to ‘womanhood’ during adolescence.
Over a decade after the Taliban was overthrown, there is a growing pressure to end the war in Afghanistan by a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Hamid Karzai has already started prepping for a return of the Taliban’s role in government. Just last month he publicly supported a decree from the Ulema Council – a collection of Afghanistan’s religious leaders – declaring women to be worth less than men, therefore renouncing the equality of women and men enshrined within the Afghan constitution.
With signs of Talibanisation creeping back into the country, a departure of international forces will come at a devastatingly high cost to women, who would be plummeted further still into the hell they are forced to inhabit. For more information, see HRW’s report I Had to Run Away, which was released in Kabul this week.