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Life For Afghan Women: Not Better Under Karzai

Women everywhere fight for their rights — but women in Afghanistan have it particularly bad.

BBC reporter Jane Corbin was invited by a French charity, based in Herat, Afghanistan, that treats women who have self-immolated. Most of these women set fire to themselves to escape a forced marriage or a violent husband. In the photo above, a woman comforts her 20-year-old daughter in the hospital. In an attempted suicide to protest a forced marriage to an elderly man and escape rumors of an affair with a younger one, she set fire to herself and now suffers from burns over 85 percent of her body.

Although women were promised equality and human rights by the introduction of democracy, a new constitution, and President Hamid Karzai’s presidency in 2004, the reality of their situation is still bleak.

Sixty percent of women are still forced into marriage as children, sometimes as young as nine or 10. Since Westerners intervened, this was supposed to have changed under a law that stated girls under 16 should not be married. But police don't always investigate the crimes, and male judges often reduce the sentences of men guilty of harming women.

Some women are standing up to the Taliban, which is trying to turn back any minuscule gains women may have from new leadership. Prosecutor Maria Bashir, who requires security guards and has survived bombing attacks, is trying to protect women from men even though laws are supposed to do this. Bashir does this even though it puts her family in danger — the son of another lawyer was beheaded by people who thought he was her son.

A news story today makes an Afghan woman's plight almost unthinkable: a law has passed that allows a man to starve his wife if she refuses his sexual demands. Some accuse Karzai of allowing this barbaric law to pass so that he can get support from the conservative Shia support in next week’s presidential election.

There is a sliver of hope: there are women activists like Bashir who risk their lives fighting for women’s rights and, in spite of an 80 percent illiteracy rate among Afghan women, girls still dream of going to school and having a career.

Image Source: Getty
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sidra5397 sidra5397 7 years
Thanks for the story, Tres. I wish there was something I could do. I don't have much knowledge concerning the struggles of women in that country. I need to remedy that.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 7 years
So much for going there to help the people and stop a brutal regime, nothing has changed in these newly "liberated" countries and the ones who suffer are the women and the children. It just makes me sick!
sloane220 sloane220 7 years
@cirrus1701- i saw osama, and i agree the end was horrifying but sadly realistic. the more news i hear about the women being abused in afghanistan the angrier i get. i mean it's like these men are trying to torture their countrywomen. i was reading about how a good deal of afghani women may not be able to vote because there aren't enough afghani women to man voting stations, they won't accept foreign women helping out at these stations, and none of the afghani women would be allowed out of their homes after dark so after a certain hour women would automatically be denied entry. i mean this is absurd. i thought about what i would do in the the situation and i think i would either pass as a man or revolt. afghani women need to coalesce and revolt against this oppressive misogyny.
cirrus1701 cirrus1701 7 years
Rent the movie Osama. It's not about the obvious one. It's about a little girl who lives like a boy in order for her family to survive after the Taliban rise to power. The ending is horrifying to say the least!
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
It is absolutely horrifying that this still goes on in so many places in the world! I am so saddened to hear that the government is turning a blind eye to the problems. Women are not property of their husbands, children are not property to be sold or forced into arranged marriages! This is obscene that in the 21st century women are still trying to get basic rights. No law should ever be made giving one sex power over the other sex. How do you go about fixing these cultures that condone and encourage this kind of behavior? You can make laws governing it, but they're going to break the laws and do what they want, especially if the enforcers of those laws agree with the practice.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 7 years
That is tremendously sad, more than words can describe.
mallorycurtis mallorycurtis 7 years
that picture is just so heartbreaking. it's hard to imagine that level of desperation. although america is certainly not perfect when it comes to women's rights, it makes me so thankful that we live in a country where women can at least make their own choices.
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