Here is the problem: even at face value, the statement is vague and non-committal, but while those words would mean one thing in the American legal system, they mean quite another in Afghanistan. Officials surely believed they were properly applying the law and upholding Gulnaz’ “rights.” The question becomes: whose law is being applied? Sharia is enshrined as the highest law of the land in Afghanistan according to the current constitution.
Women like Gulnaz who make allegations of rape may be expected to produce four witnesses in accordance with the Qur’an’s standards for proving a sexual crime (24:13), or they run the risk that all they have done is admitted to having sex.
The ridiculous burden of proof for establishing the crime of rape is a major reason why Gulnaz and so many others like her are in jail. Indeed, half of the women in Afghan jails are there for “moral crimes.” Communities in Afghanistan are enforcing Sharia, and Kabul will not contradict them.
Kabul (CNN) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai received a petition Sunday with nearly 5,000 names endorsing a plea for the immediate release of a rape victim who has been jailed because of her attack and is being forced to marry her rapist.
Kim Motley, a lawyer for 21-year-old Gulnaz, said the palace received the petition, which gathered 4,751 names in just over 48 hours, on Sunday afternoon. The petition comes with an official plea for clemency addressed to the president, who has the power to immediately pardon Gulnaz, currently in jail for adultery because her attacker was married at the time of the attack.
Gulnaz was sentenced to 12 years after the attack as her rapist was married though that term was recently reduced to three years.
Gulnaz’s plight gained international attention when the European Union blocked the broadcast of a documentary made about her ordeal saying that it would further jeopardize her safety.
Gulnaz was raped two years ago by her cousin’s husband but did not immediately report the attack, fearing reprisals from elements of Afghanistan’s conservative society. Yet she conceived a child from the rape, and went to police after showing signs of pregnancy.
She is now raising the daughter in jail and has agreed to marry her attacker in order to be released and legitimize her daughter. She also fears attack from her rapist’s relatives, something he denies is a risk.
A spokesman for the attorney general, Rahmatullah Naziri, told CNN last week that her sentence had been reduced to three years, leaving about a year to serve. He explained that while the original sentence for adultery was reduced, she had failed to report her rape quickly enough and would have to serve further time in jail for that offense.
No trial, apparently; just another alleged crime and more prison time tacked on.
The U.S. State Department, while not explicitly calling for Gulnaz’s release, said in a statement Thursday: “Gulnaz’s situation is one no woman should have to face. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Gulnaz and her young daughter. We expect Afghan prosecutors to properly apply the law while also upholding Gulnaz’s rights.”