I’ll leave a short space between posting these articles so as not to overwhelm you.
We need to see the work ahead of us to end gender persecution – or gender hatred – on the planet and bring in gender equality.
Therefore, I think we need to get a sense of how it is for women in what are termed, in the human-rights literature, “refugee-producing” countries. In most of these countries, the cards are stacked against women.
Let’s start with Afghanistan….
Notice these trends: women can be traded as commodities to end disputes; the victim of rape is deemed to have impugned the family’s honor, rather than the rapist; raped women often must marry their rapists; women are punished heavily for assumed or suspected sexual activity; the policemen and prison guards who rape them in custody are not punished; courts often overturn convictions, as if the mere fact of a conviction should be enough; the relatives who kill them to “protect their honor” often go uncharged or have their convictions overturned.
Excerpted from “Afghanistan,” U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 at http://goldengaiadb.com/Country_Reports_on_Human_Rights_Practices.
According to the UN and Human Rights Watch, an estimated 70 percent of marriages were forced. Despite laws banning the practice, many brides continued to be younger than the legal marriage age of 16 (or 15 with a guardian’s and a court’s approval).
A survey of married women between the ages of 20 and 24 found that 39 percent had been married before the age of 18. Very few marriages were registered, leaving forced marriages outside legal control. There were reports that women who sought assistance under the EVAW [Elimination of Violence Against Women] law in cases of forced marriage or rape were subjected to virginity tests.
According to an AIHRC [Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission] report on rape and honor killing, murders, assaults, and sexual violence against women commonly involved family members as suspects.
Adultery, fornication, and kidnapping are crimes under the law. Women often were convicted of those crimes in situations of abuse, rape, or forced marriage, or on the basis of invalid evidence, including flawed virginity tests.
The AIHRC registered more than 280 women who had been killed by family members during 2011 and 2012 but asserted that most cases probably went unreported.
Police response to domestic violence was limited, in part due to low reporting, sympathetic attitudes toward perpetrators, and limited protection for victims.
There were reports of government officials’ complicity in violations of the EVAW law. The AIHRC reported that 14.6 percent of honor killings and sexual assaults were committed by police.
The AIHRC … reported that, between March 21, 2011, and April 21, 2013, there were 406 reported cases of honor killings and sexual assaults registered with the AIHRC. The unreported number was believed to be much higher and to include cases of suicide and self-immolation that covered honor killings. Under the penal code, a man convicted of honor killing after finding his wife committing adultery cannot be sentenced to more than two years’ imprisonment
Local officials occasionally imprisoned women at the request of family members for opposing the family’s choice of a marriage partner or being charged with adultery or bigamy. There were also reports that local officials imprisoned women in place of a family member who had committed a crime but could not be located. Some women remained in detention facilities because they had run away from home to escape domestic violence or the prospect of forced marriage.
Women who could not be reunited with their families were compelled to remain in shelters indefinitely because “unaccompanied” women were not commonly accepted in society.
In June 2012 the minister of justice equated shelters to brothels during a parliamentary conference on ending violence against women; he later apologized for the remarks. In May the parliamentary debate over the EVAW law reignited public debate over women’s shelters. One member of parliament likened the shelters to brothels, and one prominent television channel began to broadcast antishelter programming daily.
Women sometimes turned to shelters for assistance and sometimes practiced self-immolation, and MOWA reported that cases of suicide as a result of domestic violence continued.
In June the juvenile rehabilitation centers in Kabul, Gardez, Balkh, Nangarhar, Kunduz, and Herat admitted to ordering virginity tests to be conducted on all female detainees and prisoners. The tests, conducted at hospitals by the Ministry of Public Health, involved a gynecological examination to detect the presence of the hymen. The tests also often were ordered by the police, prosecutors, and courts and could be used as evidence of moral crimes if authorities desired.
In January a teenage girl seeking safe haven with a local Department of Women’s Affairs allegedly was raped by six department guards while waiting to be transferred to a shelter.
Some police and judicial officials were not aware or convinced that rape was a serious criminal offense, and investigating a rape case was generally not a priority. Even in instances when justice officials took rape seriously, some cases reportedly did not proceed due to bribery, family or tribal pressure, or other interference during the process.
The AIHRC’s report on rape and honor killing asserted that only 64 percent of cases referred to the justice sector were prosecuted or adjudicated correctly. The AIHRC and NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations], however, confirmed that a majority of cases went unreported due to societal acceptance of the practice.
In 2009, 16-year-old Gulnaz was raped by her cousin’s husband and convicted and sentenced to a 12-year sentence for the crime of “adultery by force” because she refused to marry him. In December 2011 President Karzai pardoned Gulnaz following international criticism and lobbying by human rights groups after she served two-and-a-half years of her sentence. Gulnaz went to a women’s shelter, where the law required her and her child to remain until she went to the home of a male family member.
Her family refused to accept her, and in February, after 13 months in the shelter, Gulnaz bowed to social and family pressure and married her rapist.
In December 2011 police rescued a 15-year-old girl in Baghlan Province after they found her locked in a basement bathroom, having had her fingernails pulled out and being forced into prostitution by her 30-year-old husband and in-laws. The husband escaped arrest, but a court sentenced her mother-in-law and sister-in-law to 10 year’s imprisonment in May 2012.
In March the Supreme Court overturned the three convictions in the case, remanding the cases to the Kabul Appellate Court for reconsideration. The Kabul Appellate Court ordered that all three defendants be released from prison.
Judges in some remote districts acknowledged wide influence by tribal authorities in preempting cases from the formal justice system. In the informal system, elders relied on interpretations of sharia and tribal customs, which generally discriminated against women. Many women reported limited access to justice in male-dominated tribal shuras, where proceedings focused on reconciliation with the community and family rather than the rights of the individual. Women in some villages were not allowed any access to dispute resolution mechanisms.
In June clerics in Baghlan Province issued a religious edict (fatwa) with provisions limiting the rights of women – similar to those under the Taliban – which banned women from leaving home without a male relative, including when visiting medical clinics, and sought to shut down cosmetic shops. The Ulama Council issued statements that called for restrictions on women’s ability to participate in society.
Compared to men, women and children were disproportionately victims of preventable deaths due to communicable diseases. Although free health services were provided in public facilities, many households could not afford certain costs related to medicines or transportation to health care facilities, and many women were not permitted to travel to health care facilities on their own.
In May a female parliamentarian presented the [2009 EVAW] law to parliament seeking additional reaffirmation of women’s rights even although this was not technically necessary. This inadvertently led to the conservative male majority arguing against the law by saying the protections for women were un-Islamic.