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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora