Monday, May 05, 2008

Punishing the victim

My latest story tells of women who dare to flee and complain about rape or domestic abuse, and are then jailed themselves, accused of adultery. Most Afghans believe that a woman who has run away has inevitably committed adultery because they assume she has fled to be with a man. Therefore, the Afghan justice system often charges women runaways as adulterers.

This article caused much heated debate as I reported it. Several Afghan men I spoke with (including an Afghan guy who is a human rights lawyer) insisted vehemently that it is illegal for a woman to leave home without permission from her husband, even though several other lawyers and legal experts said it was not illegal. The government has even printed a pamphlet that details women's and girls' rights, including snippets like "It is wrong to sell your daughter to settle a murder dispute," and "Running away is not illegal." Hundreds of these pamphlets were printed, but they have not been distributed because some government officials believe that the "running away" bit will encourage girls to run away.

Many Afghan men I spoke with, including lawyers, believe that more Afghan women are running away and seeking divorces because of women's rights that are being peddled by the pesky international community.

Read the story here.

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