More than 10 years after the collapse of the Taliban regime, hundreds of women are imprisoned in Afghanistan over “moral crimes,” such as engaging in extramarital sex, fleeing domestic abuse and seeking a divorce.
Even rape victims have been jailed.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, or HRW, released Wednesday in Kabul, the government of President Hamid Karzai has failed in its duty to improve the rights of women in the Afghanistan.
Unwilling or unable to take a consistent line against conservative forces within the country, [Karzai] has often made compromises that have negatively impacted women's rights, HRW stated.
“These include appointing staunch conservatives to the Supreme Court, and in 2009 supporting passage of the blatantly discriminatory [laws].”
The human-rights group is demanding that the Afghan government release about 400 women locked in prisons and juvenile detention centers over such “offenses.”
It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. “No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it’s at home. President Karzai and Afghanistan’s allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice.”
The court trials that convict these women are highly questionable, HRW asserted, with defendants not represented by attorneys and often being forced to sign confessions under extreme duress.
Roth added: “Courts send women to prison for dubious ‘crimes’ while the real criminals -- their abusers -- walk free. Even the most horrific abuses suffered by women seem to elicit nothing more than a shrug from prosecutors, despite laws criminalizing violence against women.”
Upon conviction, some women face long prison terms, more than 10 years in some cases.
HRW declared that “the treatment of women and girls accused of 'moral crimes' is a black eye on the face of the post-Taliban Afghan government and its international backers, all of whom promised that respect for women's rights would distinguish the new government from the Taliban.”
The BBC reported that what meager rights women have gained in the past decade – including access to schools and more political participation – may be eroded as the Kabul regime seeks to appease conservative religious elements in the country.
“The Afghan government and its international partners should act urgently to protect women’s rights and to ensure there is no backsliding,” Roth said.
“President Karzai, the United States, and others should finally make good on the bold promises they made to Afghan women a decade ago by ending imprisonment for ‘moral crimes,’ and actually implementing their stated commitment to support women’s rights.”