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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Afghanistan: We Treat Women like Animals



By Musa Khan Jalalzai

December 24, 2013

According to Oxfam International, some 87 percent of Afghan women have experienced violence in the form of forced marriages, physical, sexual or psychological abuse

Last year, a former Afghan warlord told me that women were treated like dogs in his province. Being an Afghan journalist, I have authored two books about the mistreatment of women in my country. Violence against women and teenaged girls in Afghanistan is growing. A UN report recently claimed that there was a 20 percent increase in violence and mistreatment. The annual report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict says more than 300 women and girls were brutally killed and 560 injured by their husbands and parents in 2012.

On December 14, 2013, the BBC reported that an Afghan official confirmed that a man had incised the nose and lips of his 30-year-old wife, Setara, in Herat province. According to preliminary reports, Setara had been stabbed several times in her face as well. On November 28, 2013, two innocent women were hanged from a tree in Logar province. On December 13, 2013, a group of unidentified gunmen raped a 12-year-old girl in Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan. In another incident, a 15-year-old girl from Herat province told a human rights reporter that her husband and father-in-law beat her three or four times a day.

In recent months, Afghan women have experienced horrific cases of abuse and violence but Afghan authorities support criminals instead of protecting young girls. Last month, a government official in northern Afghanistan admitted that a man had strangled his wife after she gave birth to a girl. She was dragged outside her room and brutally killed. In 2012, the international community ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for women. Human Rights Watch, in its 15-page report, highlighted the health and economic consequences of marriage for those under 18 years and violence against young girls. Recently, the police arrested two men in northern Afghanistan for slitting the throat of a 15-year-old girl after her parents refused a marriage proposal.

The Independent Commission on Human Rights in Afghanistan has compiled numerous cases of the sexual abuse of boys and girls in various parts of the country. On October 24, 2013, Khaama Press reported the heartbreaking story of a teenage girl sexually abused by her father. A local security official in Nimroz province said that the man accused of sexually abusing his teenage daughter for the past eight years had been arrested. Fourteen-year-old Moniza admitted that her father had sexually abused her. Violence against women, girls and teenage boys remains one of the most under-reported abuses.

Bacha Bazi (sodomy) and sexual abuse are old traditions in the country. According to the Afghan NGO RAWA, 90 percent of Afghan women are abused by their parents, relatives and husbands. In northern Afghanistan and in parts of the southern provinces, the same story is repeated. In various districts in the Northern provinces, poor and poverty stricken girls and children are being kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Unemployed and poor young boys have also been subjected to trafficking for male prostitution, forced labour and the ‘playboy’ business. The tradition of child marriage has long been practiced in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s civil war has left thousands of women widowed and young girls orphaned. Matrimonial ceremonies are expensive in the country, specifically in Paktika and Paktia provinces; the price for a young girl has been fixed at more than three million in Afghan currency. Education for girls in these provinces is considered to be a great sin while sports and other hobbies are not allowed. The majority of Afghan girls became pregnant before they reach physical maturity because they do not know about the law of the country. The Afghan civil law sets the minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys.

According to Oxfam International, some 87 percent of Afghan women have experienced violence in the form of forced marriages, physical, sexual or psychological abuse. Of the 42 married women interviewed by the NGO, 22 had been arrested as a direct result of running away from abusive husbands or family members. However, in interviews with prosecutors, the report could find just one instance where a man had been arrested for perpetrating such abuse. In 2012, the Taliban forced the closure of 600 schools in the eastern provinces. Recently, in Takhar province, 125 girls from the Bibi Hajra School were admitted into hospital after being poisoned by terrorists. A week later, another 40 girls from the same school were poisoned again and from Ahan Dara, a girl’s school in Taloqan, 160 girls were admitted to hospital after being poisoned by unknown terrorists. The illegal market of selling and buying of women and young girls in some districts of Jalalabad province is an age-old practice.

Women are treated like animals in the Shinwari Pashtun tribe where they are sold like goats or sheep. Director Women Rights Sabrina Hamidi confirmed to news reporters that women are sold like animals in different districts of the Shinwari area of Jalalabad. Sabrina revealed that the price depends on the beauty of the girl and can range from around 80,000 in Afghan currency to 2,000 US $. NGOs and rights groups have registered numerous complaints with government authorities about the mistreatment of women by the police force.

In 2009, Karzai’s government passed a Shia family law under which women must not refuse the sexual demands of their husbands; they must comply with demands for intercourse every four days unless they are sick. Most controversially, Article 132 specifies that women are required to sexually satisfy their husbands. The UN, US, NATO, Canada and Germany asked the Afghan government to review this controversial law as it will harm women physically. Article 132 says that a refusal to do the above would be against the law and husbands are allowed to stop feeding them: “If women say no, the husband has the right not to feed her.” Legal experts termed the law as a brutal way of treating women and say that this law has brought shame to the country. The future of women, according to Afghan human rights groups, is bleak in Afghanistan.