Her other option would probably have been prison. Up to 350 woman and about 114 girls are known to be locked up for “moral crimes” in Afghanistan. Among the girls, “80 per cent are serving sentences for either running away from home or extramarital sex.”
As was the case with Gulnaz, the rape victim finally pardoned from a sentence for adultery (after agreeing to marry the man who raped her), there are undoubtedly others like the girl in this story, Sahar Gul, inside and outside of jail.
“Tortured Afghan child bride had been sent back to in-laws,” by Jon Boone for the Sydney Morning Herald, January 3:
A 15-year-old Afghan girl who was nearly tortured to death by her husband and his family attempted to escape from her attackers more than four months ago but was sent back home by local authorities, it has emerged.
Sahar Gul, a child bride married off to a soldier called Gulam Sakhi who then tried to force her into prostitution, is being treated for horrific injuries in a hospital in Kabul after she was rescued last week.
During her ordeal several of her fingernails were ripped out with pliers and one of her ears was badly burned by an iron. Her husband is now on the run, and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested.
Her case has caused uproar in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai, the country’s President, has vowed that those responsible would be punished.
But disturbing new details about how the local community and authorities responded to her abuse has highlighted the ambivalence many Afghans have over how far women should be able to exercise the most basic of legal rights.
“She ran away to her neighbour’s house and told them that her husband was trying to make her become a prostitute,” said local community leader Ziaulhaq. ” ‘If you are a Muslim, you must tell the government what is happening to me,’ she told them.”
The locals said they did take the case to the authorities. When the police arrived Sahar’s mother-in-law tried to fight them off, screaming all the while that her son had “bought” the girl who therefore had to do what she was told.
She appeared to be alluding to the dowry paid by Sakhi’s family, a sum thought to be about $4000.
Locals say the family simply promised to stop hurting her. Ziaulhaq also alleged that bribes were paid to government officials to hush up the affair.
Although she emphatically denied money was paid, Rahima Zarifi, the women’s affairs chief in Baghlan province, said she could not remember the details of the case, or why Sahar was sent back home.
The abuse resumed and continued for months until a male relative visited. When he found the girl, who had been starved in a locked basement for weeks, Sahar was almost unable to speak.
Fauzia Kufi, an MP who campaigns on women’s issues, said that even then local authorities attempted to resolve the abuse through “traditional means”.
“Basically they wanted the relative to sit down with his sister’s abusers and work out an agreement,” she said.
Kufi also claims there was strong pressure not to publicise the case.
“Many people don’t take these sorts of crimes seriously and don’t think it should be reported,” she said.
“Even the local authorities have blamed the department for women’s affairs for not trying to solve it locally between families in the traditional way.”…