International embarrassment for Afghanistan got one rape victim, Gulnaz, pardoned, although she will still marry the man who raped her.
It is good to see reporting that focuses on those who are left behind after Gulnaz’ pardon. Hundreds of women and girls remain behind bars not only for “moral crimes,” but for what would be understood in countries where Sharia is not enforced (formally or informally) to be other people’s moral crimes, including rape, forced marriage, and domestic violence.
These women’s “crimes” often boil down to having somehow been found out of place, and therefore, forfeiting their right to protection. The legal deck is stacked against them to encourage them to choose to be prisoners in their own homes. Even the supreme court is against them, as noted in the report below.
Meet the new Afghanistan, same as the old Afghanistan — only, this one smiles at the West while prosecuting rape victims. “Afghanistan’s women languishing in prisons 10 years after fall of Taliban,” by Ben Farmer for the Telegraph, December 4:
Figures disclosed to The Daily Telegraph show that half of the country”s jailed women “” about 350 “” have been sentenced for “moral crimes”. For girls aged 12 to 18 in prison, the figure rises to four-fifths.
The latest United Nations figures estimate that the women’s prison population has risen to 600, up from 380 two years ago.
A further 114 girls aged 12 to 18 are locked up, of which 80 per cent are serving sentences for either running away from home or extramarital sex, an Afghan justice official said.
The situation is predicted to get worse after a recent Supreme Court ruling that a woman who flees her home and goes anywhere other than the police or a close relative should be locked up as a precaution against illicit sex and prostitution.
The ruling has meant the number of women jailed has risen steadily.
The figures emerged as diplomats gathered in Bonn to review ten years of intervention in Afghanistan and make new pledges as Nato combat troops complete a withdrawal by 2015.
Western countries including Britain have poured tens of millions of pounds into the Afghan justice system and the women are often held in prisons built with international aid money.
But the lofty declarations made a decade ago in the same city to help women repressed by the Taliban have not, according to activists, been fulfilled.
The Afghan justice system remains heavily stacked against women in a deeply socially conservative culture.
Human Rights Watch, which has interviewed more than 50 female prisoners for a forthcoming report on the issue, found women who had tried to flee arranged marriages, beatings and husbands who had forced them into prostitution, only to be then prosecuted.
Heather Barr, the organisation’s Afghanistan researcher, said: “It’s devastating that these cases not only continue, but seem to be increasing ten years after what was supposed to be a new beginning for Afghan women.
“These cases call into question what progress has really been made for Afghan women and what type of future lies ahead for them as the international community departs.”
Many of the women said they were happy in prison because they were temporarily protected from vengeful relatives threatening murder to erase the stain left on their family”s honour. […]
Human Rights Watch said the two biggest girls” prisons, in Kabul and Herat, were almost exclusively populated by inmates convicted of moral crimes.