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Afghan Women Fleeing Abuse Often Wind up in Jail

When the Taliban fell six years ago, it was thought that a new government would offer women in Afghanistan a greater freedom since their rights are now guaranteed in the new Afghani constitution. The women of Afghanistan can now go to school and find employment, yet except for a small number of wealthy, urbanites, a woman who escapes a setting of domestic horror can end up in jail.

The reality for most women parts of Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan is less than free: a woman who runs away from home is usually assumed to have taken a lover and can be prosecuted for adultery. Simply leaving her house without her family's permission may be deemed a jailable offense. To see what's happening,


Kamala Janakiram, a UN human rights officer in eastern Afghanistan claims that 70 to 80 percent of cases where a woman escapes a setting of domestic violence, she is charged for running away from home. Compounding this atrocity is the fact that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have stated that many rape victims are forced to marry their rapists or even imprisoned for adultery because they could not prove they were raped.

These aren't isolated instances either — there are countless stories of women who are horribly abused and disfigured at the hands of their husbands only to be either left to die or thrown in prison — and the blame lays squarely on the justice system. A chief prosecutor of the eastern Nangarhar province, Abdul Qayaum said: “If my wife goes to the bazaar without my permission, I will kill her. This is Afghanistan, not America.”

The man makes a point. Just last week we were debating who was on the wrong side of the Equal Pay bill — and though that inequality might not be great, the true depth of the cultural divide and how women live this very day on this planet that's really not so big — is shattering. At what point does the dominance of culture end and universal human dignity begin?


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