The European Union (EU) has prohibited the public release of a documentary on the plight of Afghan women in jail over fears of the welfare of the women it depicts.
The EU said that it withdrew the film – about women imprisoned for committing “moral crimes” -- due to the very real concerns for the safety of the women portrayed.
According to BBC, the documentary focuses on the tragic tale of Gulnaz, a 19-year-old Afghan woman who was raped, then charged with adultery and sentenced to prison. Her child, an infant girl, is now in prison with her.
At first my sentence was two years, Gulnaz says in the film.
When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn't do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?
BBC reported that half of Afghan’s female inmate population have been convicted of “zina” or crimes deemed to be in breach of morality. Such “crime” may include seeking to avoid a forced marriage or escaping from violent husbands.
In a bizarre twist, BBC noted, Gulnaz may be pardoned and released from prison, but only after having agreed to marrying the man who raped her.
I need my daughter to have a father, she said.
Human rights groups, who claim that hundreds of Afghan women are incarcerated because they dared to speak out about domestic violence they suffered, are calling on EU officials to go ahead with releasing the film in order to highlight the problem.
Heather Barr, of Human Rights Watch (HRW), told media: It would be reassuring to think that the stories told in this film represent aberrations or extreme case. Unfortunately that couldn't be further from the truth. You hear the story again and again of [Afghan] women going to the police and asking for help and ending up in prison instead. ”
Amnesty International said the EU needs to lift the lid on one of Afghanistan's most shameful judicial practices.
Ten years after the Taliban was removed from ruling Afghanistan, the country remains one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.
It's very important that people understand that there are these horrific stories that are happening now - 10 years after the fall of the Taliban government, 10 years after what was supposed to be a new dawn for Afghan women, Barr added.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell recently warned: “Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face enormous challenges, and we recognize that there is still a lot to do. That is why the British government is working hard to support Afghan women's empowerment as we move through transition and beyond, focusing on areas where we can influence change such as education, economic opportunities, women's participation in public life and rights, justice and the rule of law.
Similarly, rights activist Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, has cited that wars, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices conspire make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women.
“In addition, women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge ingrained gender stereotypes of what is acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as policewomen or news broadcasters, are often intimidated or killed, she added.