Women’s rights


The 2004 Afghan Constitution guarantees full human rights for women, on par with men. Furthermore, Afghanistan has since 2009 had a law explicitly banning rape, forced marriages, child marriages, forced suicides, physical violence and several other violations of girls’ and women’s rights.

The 2009 act has been fiercely contested by conservative powers in the country, accusing it of being un-Islamic. Although the act is formally in force, little is done to adhere to it in practice.

When instances of abuse of women hit the media headlines, the Afghan authorities tend to condemn such behaviour in definite terms and promise to prosecute and punish the guilty parties.

Even so, a 2013 report from the UN claimed that a mere seven percent of violations registered under the 2009 act lead to prosecution. And of course, the great majority of offences are never even reported to the police.

Forced marriages
When this girl was 12 years old, she was married to a 52-year-old man. He was violent, and after four years of humiliation she tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. The result is painfully clear. Photo: Jens Kjær Jensen

When this girl was 12 years old, she was married to a 52-year-old man. He was violent, and after four years of humiliation she tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. The result is painfully clear. Photo: Jens Kjær Jensen

According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approximately 70 percent of Afghanistan’s women are forced into marriage, often as children; in fact, 39 percent of Afghan girls are married before they turn 16.

Women fleeing unhappy marriages risk punishment at the hands of their husbands and families and may even be sent to jail. Often, the only apparent way of escaping their fate is suicide.

Hence, it is not surprising that 95 percent of Afghan suicides are committed by women, most of them between the ages of 16 and 19.

Violence
It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of Afghan women have experienced domestic violence.

Neither the police nor the courts of justice are eager to intervene in this widely accepted practice – but even if they were, that fact remains that most assaults are never reported; especially in the countryside, they are simply considered to be the order of the day.

Women entering the police force or another public office risk to pay with their lives. Photo: UNAMA/AFGHAN EYES

Women entering the police force or another public office risk to pay with their lives. Photo: UNAMA/AFGHAN EYES

Women are also at risk outside of their homes. Unfortunately, there are still several instances every year of e.g. female politicians and police officers being assaulted or even murdered, merely for being women wishing to take part in public life.

Read more in the UN Women report “Like a Bird with Broken Wings” (2013), in which Afghan women tell of three decades of conflict and abuse.

Moral crimes
You can meet some of Afghanistan’s ‘moral criminals’ in the Swedish documentary ‘No Burqas Behind Bars’ from 2013.

The term ‘moral crime’ sounds like a residue from the Taliban era. Nevertheless, as late as 2013, the Afghan prisons housed 600 female, moral criminals, guilty of offences such as adultery or fleeing their homes. ‘Moral criminals’ thus accounted for half of all the country’s female inmates, and fully 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention.

A woman or girl suspected of a moral crime will generally not be protected by the authorities. On the contrary, she may be subjected to a brutal, forced virginity test in a public clinic.