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Reuters, November 22, 2009

Afghan Women burn themselves to flee abuse

Afghan wives choose to burn themselves to death to escape a life of domestic torture and abuse.

Lee Marzel reports.

This Afghan woman is in hospital with serious burns - and they're self-inflicted.

She's one of a growing number of women - and young girls - who deliberately set fire to themselves in order to escape a life of domestic torture and abuse.

SOUNDBITE- 11-year-old Reaza Gul, saying (Dari):

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"I burnt myself because my in-laws were torturing me. They were beating me all the time. I did not have any other choice but to burn myself. I was 10-year-old when I got married."

Suicide attempts are common in western Herat where many women are forced into marriage at a young age.

Many suffer abuse from their husbands and in-laws.

SOUNDBITE- 20-year-old Hanifa, saying (Dari):

"I was seven-year-old when I got married. I did not have kids till the age of 12. I became a mother of four kids. My husband is a drug user. I asked him to stop using drugs many times, but he wouldn't stop. I warned him that I would have no choice but to kill myself if he didn't quit using drugs. He couldn't do it, and that is why I burned myself."

This hospital only treats "self-burning" patients.

(SOUNDBITE) (Dari) MOHAMMAD AREF JALALI, DOCTOR IN CHARGE, SAYING:

"We've had nine cases of self-burning at our hospital. One of them is a man and eight are women, unfortunately three of the women died."

Under the Taliban woman weren't allowed to work or get an education.

But even now - eight years after they were overthrown - there's evidence their suffering continues.

Women's rights groups say domestic violence and discrimination is common and women usually have no access to the justice system.

Divorce is rarely an option in a country where about 80 percent of women are illiterate and often have no knowledge of their rights.

Islamic law in Afghanistan also favours men.

A wife must prove her husband can't provide for her, is absent for long periods or abuses her to the point where her life is at risk.

She also needs witnesses and often his permission to divorce.

Even then she's unlikely to keep her children and it's that prospect which drives women like these to seek other more desperate ways to escape.

Category: Women, HR Violations - Views: 12582