By Musa Khan Jalalzai
The three-decades-long civil war in Afghanistan caused chronic poverty, unemployment, destruction, and mass migration. The US and NATO invasion in 2001 further added to the pain of civilians who then became a victim of drone attacks, Taliban, IS, and local warlords atrocities. All these misadventures have caused starvation and diseases, which forced poor Afghan parents to sell their daughters for bread, fuel, debt settlement, and other necessities.
The irony is that this trade continues even under the nose of the Unity Government, while sexual abuse of young girls in safe houses, police stations, prisons and private jails of foreign forces, as well as that of war criminals in districts and provinces, has now become a national shame. Private security companies, government officials, IS commanders, and even Taliban are also involved in episodes of child sex.
Women continue to be tortured, sold, killed and even mutilated for honour by their husbands and terrorist organisations that include Taliban and the IS in all cities and towns of Afghanistan. Human trafficking is another challenge that has grown with the civil war as Afghan parliamentarians, war criminals and government officials, and terrorist organisations still retrieve huge money from this business.
During the last eight months, Afghan women experienced several horrific episodes of abuse and violence but the authorities have always supported criminals instead of protecting young girls. Last month, a government official in northern Afghanistan admitted that a man had strangled his wife after she had given birth to a girl. She was dragged outside her room and brutally killed. In 2016, the international community had ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for women. In a 15-page report, Human Rights Watch had highlighted the health and economic consequences of marriage for those under 18 years and violence against young girls. Recently, police arrested two men in northern Afghanistan for slitting the throat of a 15-year-old girl after her parents had declined a marriage proposal.
In 2014, a former Afghan warlord told me that women were treated like dogs in his province. A UN report has recently claimed that there was a 20 percent increase in violence and mistreatment of women. The annual report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict spotlighted more than 300 women and girls who were brutally killed and another 560 injured by their husbands and parents in 2015. On December 14, 2013, BBC had 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. However, preliminary reports indicated that 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 had 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 she was beaten by her husband and father-in-law at least three or four times every day.
The Independent Commission on Human Rights in Afghanistan has compiled numerous cases of sexual abuse of boys and girls in various parts of the country. On October 24, 2013, Khaama Press reported a heartbreaking story of a teenage girl being sexually abused by her father. A local security official in Nimroz province, however, said that the man accused of sexually abusing his teenage daughter for the past eight years had been arrested. A fourteen-year-old girl, Moniza, also admitted that her father had sexually abused her.
Violence against women and teenage boys remains one of the most under-reported abuses. Bacha bazi (sodomy) among other forms of sexual abuse is an old tradition in the country. According to an Afghan NGO, RAWA, 90 percent of Afghan women are abused by their parents, relatives and husbands. The same story is repeated in northern Afghanistan and even in parts of the southern provinces, in various districts in the Northern provinces, poverty-stricken girls and children are being kidnapped and later sold into prostitution. Unemployed and poor young boys have also been subjected to trafficking for male prostitution, forced labour, and the ‘playboy’ business.
In a society like Afghanistan, where a man cannot even look at a woman or girl in cities and towns unless he has entered into a marriage contract with her, men often resort to Bacha Bazi (male child prostitution). In this sexually repressed country, sections of society partake in unhealthy and abusive sexual relationships. Bacha Bazi is an old tradition in Afghanistan in which young boys are dressed up as girls and then made to perform at private venues. More than 60 percent of gang raped children are unable to survive the abuse. To feed their families, young children are sold into male prostitution. Afghan men who keep Bachas (boys) for sexual pleasure have to be able to provide everything required by the child partner, including money, vehicles and clothes.
The tradition of child marriage has long been practised in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s civil war has left thousands of women widowed and young girls orphaned. Matrimonial ceremonies are also expensive in the country, specifically in Paktika and Paktia provinces where the price for a young girl has been fixed at more than three million in Afghan currency. Education for girls in these provinces is also considered to be a great sin while sports and other hobbies are not allowed. The majority of Afghan girls become pregnant before they reach physical maturity because they do not know about the law of the country. Afghan civil law sets the minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. Women are traded like animals in the Shinwari district of Jalalabad province in Friday Baazars. Director of an Afghan NGO, Women Rights, and Sabrina Hamidi said that women are being sold like animals in different parts of Shinwari area of Jalalabad province.
Mrs Hamidi said that the price of a woman depends on her beauty and can range anywhere from around 80,000 in Afghan currency to $2,000. However, NGOs and other human rights groups have already registered numerous complaints with government authorities about the mistreatment of women by warlords and the police.
There are different prices fixed for young and old women respectively. In Kabul and Wardak provinces, young women can be purchased for USD 12,000. In Jalalabad, the price of a young woman is 800,000 in Afghan currency, 1,200,000 (17,400 USD) in Paktia and Khost provinces, 1,500,000 in Farah province and 3,000,000 or 43,000 USD in Kandahar. The exchange of women is another shameless business in Afghanistan, where women are forced to go with strangers like an animal. In some provinces, displaced families often sell their children. Months ago, a video of a crying six-year old girl had created panic across the country when Gharibgul was sold to a 60-year old cleric.
Musa Khan Jalalzai is author of Fixing the EU Intelligence Crisis.