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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs