Dahiney Ghuri in Pul-i-Kumri, Baghlan Province, Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, outlawed forced marriage and acid throwing on December 11, 2011. Unfortunately for Afghanistan, a similar story has gained huge international attention as well, but for opposite reasons. 15-year old bride, Sahar Gul, who after refusing to become a prostitute by her in-laws was severely beaten and locked in a dirty basement bathroom for several months with barely enough necessities to survive. Her in-laws of seven months pulled out her nails, clumps of hair, burned her with cigarette butts, and tore pieces of flesh from her body. Gul, in critical condition, will be transported to India for serious treatment and recovery.
Ms. Gul’s mother and uncle broke into their in-laws house to rescue Ms. Gul and reported the abuse to authorities. Gul’s father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested and are being held responsible their crimes. However, President Hamid Karzai and police officials are issuing a man hunt for her husband 30-year old, Ghulam Sakhi, a soldier in the Afghan National Army who has now fled. Mr. Sakhi married Ms. Gul when she was 14. This is one of the worst, most public cases of domestic violence against women in Afghanistan. The lone fact that officials are responding in favor of Ms. Gul is an extremely positive sign in Afghanistan’s move towards protecting its female population more.
This story highlights several major human rights violation that need our attention and effort to correct.
1. Child Brides: Approximately 57 percent of Afghan girls get married before the legal age of 16. Gul was 14 when she married her 30-year old husband. While the conditions of the marriage arrangement are yet to be revealed this is not a love marriage. Most child brides are exchanged for money or assets, debt reduction, to remove females from households (since females are not allowed to work and earn an income they are a financial drain on families). There are over 50 million girls under the age of 17 that are married off against their will.
2. Institutionalized Domestic Violence: With little government protection, the socialized acceptance of domestic violence is allowed to run rampant. Due to the nature of marriage arrangements with women holding little to no autonomy, wives are treated as property and objects which justifies inhuman treatment. Within undeveloped countries, especially ones in sub-Sahara Africa and the Middle East, wives who do not obey their patriarchal family, fail to fulfill their dowries (or their patriarchal family is ashamed by its amount), don’t produce a son are subjected to physical and emotional violence, bride burnings and acid throwing. These are all accepted norms.
3. Forced Prostitution: The lack of education granted young girls and the opportunity to learn professional skills or even work as an unskilled laborer nullifies any chance of a wife being a financial household contributor. In impoverished families desperate for money, prostitution can seem like a logical choice to abate financial constraints. As a wife, this position is a no-win situation. Their choices are either to become a prostitute or refuse, as in Ms. Gul’s case, and be violently abused. Prostitution is also treated as a severe ‘moral crime’ on the same level of adultery (even if it was forced by in-laws or a husband), so there was a good chance Ms. Gul would have been brutalized anyway.
4. No Way Out: Due to women’s lack of legal identity and protection against violence, wives cannot leave dangerous marriages. Many women in Afghanistan are currently in prison for trying to run away from abusive households and marriages. Those who run away and are caught, not by authorities but by her patriarchal family, often are punished with acid throwing or bride burnings.
Domestic violence in these areas are seldom reported because there is no government infrastructure to assist women and ngo’s seldom have the resources to make a huge impact. Due to this and the social acceptance of such practices and attitudes, many women do not gather the courage to break away or speak up. Especially, when the risk of not being protected or caught is acid, beatings, burnings and even death. The fact that Ms. Gul’s story has reached international attention is a great sign. Hopefully, country governments and people will come to understand the imperative need to protect its mother, daughter and female citizens, that abuse, child brides and prostitution are in no way acceptable forms to treat a person.
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To Read More Click Here: 2 Arrested in Torture of Afghan Girl – NYTimes.com.