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Afghanistan’s Terrorized Women

KABUL – Recently, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kudoz province reported the rescue of a young woman who had been imprisoned in her in-laws’ dungeon for seven months. Fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul was forced to marry an older man who serves in the Afghan army. She was then kept in the dungeon by her husband’s family and brutally tortured for months, because she refused to work as a prostitute.

Over the past ten years, the AIHRC has received more than 19,000 complaints related to violence against women. Despite making some progress in investigating the complaints and referring them to the justice system, as well as in raising public awareness about the issue, the challenges remain huge.

Since 2002, many efforts have been made to improve women’s lives in Afghanistan. The country has enacted several new laws and established a fairly advanced legal framework to end discrimination against women, including a new law that criminalizes any act that results in violence against women.

But laws and policies alone are not sufficient to protect women from horrific domestic abuse. Indeed, the Gul case is hardly the only well-publicized case. There was also Gulnaz, a young woman who was jailed for adultery after being raped by a relative (she was recently released after a presidential pardon, but may be forced to marry her attacker). The husband of another young woman, Aisha, cut off her nose and ears when she ran away.