News

    Report Finds Hundreds of Afghan Women Imprisoned for Moral Crimes

    An Afghan inmate watches from behind a barred window during a media event at a women's prison in Kabul. (File Photo - March 30, 2010)
    An Afghan inmate watches from behind a barred window during a media event at a women's prison in Kabul. (File Photo - March 30, 2010)
    Brian Padden

    Human Rights Watch says hundreds of Afghan women have been imprisoned for "moral crimes" that include running away and adultery. The report is particularly critical of President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government, saying it has failed to fulfill its obligations under international human rights laws.

    Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch Executive Director, says in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's criminal justice system has made little progress in the way it treats women.

    “Women are still very vulnerable to forced marriage, to domestic violence, to sexual abuse and when they try to do something about it the the legal system does not answer,” said Roth.

    The report says nearly 400 women are in Afghan prisons for moral crimes, although that number has gone down significantly since 2010. These crimes include not only adultery, but also running away from home to get married, to flee a forced marriage or to escape domestic abuse, which is not a crime under Afghan law.

    Roth says arrests have been justified under a unique interpretation of Sharia law.

    “The Afghan supreme court has said that the crime of running away can be found in Sharia, but when we looked around the world no other government thinks that running away is in Sharia," said Roth. "Afghanistan stands alone in that interpretation.”

    Earlier this month, President Hamid Karzai announced a blanket pardon for women imprisoned for running away from their parents. The government says it is working on identifying and releasing these women.

    The report says that some women have been convicted of adultery after being raped or for leaving an abusive husband and seeking protection from a man who is not a family member.  It says judges often convict on the basis of confessions given in the absence of lawyers and signed by women who cannot read nor write. Prison sentences can last in some cases more 10 years.

    Women publicly convicted of moral crimes also expressed fears that after they are released, they could be murdered by their families for reasons of honor.

    During the Taliban's five-year rule, women and girls were severely marginalized in all aspects of Afghan society. Women were forced to wear body-and-face covering burqas and were not allowed out of the house without a male family member as an escort.

    The Afghan constitution now ensures equal rights for women and outlaws violence against women.  A number of Afghan women have been elected to parliament and access to education for girls continues to grow. But Afghanistan remains a very conservative culture and women remain vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

    Human rights groups are worried, as the United States and NATO reduce their presence in Afghanistan, President Karzai will sacrifice the rights of women in peace talks with the Taliban and to appeal to more conservative elements in Afghan society.  

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora