Digital Journal, December 29, 2011

Horrific abuse of girls and women acceptable in Afghanistan

Authorities in northern Baghlan province say they were aware of reports that the girl was tortured after she refused to be forced into prostitution

By Joan Firstenberg

Sahar Gul, a 15-year old girl brutally tortured by her in-laws for refusing prostitution. (Photo: RFE/RL)

Afghan girls, forced to marry when they are children or teenagers, are being tortured not only by their older husbands, but often by their family or in-laws. Usually it's for no reason at all except that they are female.

Women throughout Afghanistan are suffering domestic abuse, very often at the hands of their own family or in-laws. The BBC reports it was given a video ( ) which can be seen here, that reveals the extensive injuries inflicted upon a 15-year old Afghan child bride. The girl, Sahar Gul was married off to a 30-year-old man seven months ago, when she was 14.

Sahar was rescued by local police who were contacted by her family after they weren't able to see or visit her for several months. They found her locked up in the basement of her in-law's house, a dark room with no windows. She told them she had had her nails and clumps of her hair pulled out. Police say big chunks of the flesh on her body had been cut out with pliers.

Rahima Zarifi, director of the Women's Affairs Department in Baghlan, said the girl was severely tortured all the time, both physically and mentally, and that although the physical scars might heal, the psychological scars are not likely to.

Baghlan police official Jawid Basharat says Sahar explained that she was abused by her father-in-law, her husband, her sister-in-law, brother-in-law and her mother-in-law. She says it was the mother-in-law who pulled out her hair and nails.Authorities in northern Baghlan province say they were aware of reports that the girl was tortured after she refused to be forced into prostitution, but they were unable to confirm it.Police arrested Sahar's in-laws, but her husband managed to flee.

Human rights activists are concerned that the abuse of young and old females in Afghanistan, especially in its rural areas, stays on the sideline as the international community focuses on its military activities in that country, and puts little emphasis and less pressure on Afghan authorities over human rights.

In just the second quarter of this year alone, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reports 1,026 cases of violence against women. That compares with the total of all of last year of 2,700. And the group points out that these are just the cases that are actually reported, as most cases go unreported. Many girls who are being abused in Aghanistan burn themselves to get out of the situation. Many kill themselves by this method, others are severely injured.

Afghan law permits girls to be married at the age of 16. But almost half of them are married off when they are younger than that. Often, they have not even reached their teenage years. The torture occurs sometimes for no reason at all, or because the husband accuses the girl of having an affair, or orders her to become a prostitute to make money for him, and she refuses.

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