Afghan law to silence victims of domestic violence

Horrible.

The small but significant change to Afghanistan‘s criminal prosecution code bans relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law – passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president, Hamid Karzai – will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering.

 

Let’s hope it doesn’t get signed.   (Thanks, R!)

Afghan schoolgirls ‘poisoned by Taliban’

More than 120 schoolgirls and 3 teachers have been poisoned in a second attack on classrooms in two months. The attack happened in Takhar province. Toxic chemicals were released into the air inside the school, and left many pupils unconscious. Last month, 150 schoolgirls in the same province were poisoned after drinking contaminated water. Police and education officials blame the attacks on the Taliban, under whose rule it was illegal for women to work or receive education. You can read more from Al Jazeera.

Development in women’s position in Afghanistan

There’s a pretty horrendous story come out about a child bride, Sahar Gul (aged 15), in Afghanistan being tortured by her new in-laws in order to get her to become a prostitute. You can find the article here, but note there are some very unpleasant pics and scenes described.

The reason this is noteworthy is that this story occurred in an Afghan paper and Afghan people were apparently outraged.

From the article:

The case highlights both the problems and the progress of women 10 years after the Taliban’s fall. Gul’s egregious wounds and underage wedlock are a reminder that girls and women still suffer shocking abuse. But the public outrage and the government’s response to it also show that the country is slowly changing.

And though things are improving a bit,

Still, for every improvement, there are other signs of women’s continued misery. The U.N. says more than half of Afghanistan’s female prison population is made up of women sentenced by local courts for fleeing their marriages — the charge is often phrased as “intent to commit adultery,” even though that’s not a crime under Afghan law. And the U.N. women’s agency UNIFEM estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15, even though the legal marriage age is 16.

I do think it is sort of hopeful that the outing of this story caused an outrage in Afghanistan. I hope Sahar is going to be ok, despite this extremely traumatic experience, and I hope that because of her, a lot of other kids are going to be more ok than they would have been otherwise.

Thanks @AllenStairs for sharing

Afghan girls dressing as boys

Here’s an interesting and heartbreaking article about the practice of dressing a daughter as a boy to pretend she’s a son. The practice allows the daughter to come and go from the house (daughters are confined inside), to play cricket and football and other outdoor sports with boys, to work, to help families with shopping, to obtain a better education, and to avoid the daily harassment and disrespect that girls and women endure. It also enables the family to avoid the stigma of only having daughters. Generally speaking, the practice ends at puberty, when the family deem it too dangerous for their daughter to be around boys any more. Many enter arranged marriages at this point. Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to adjust to the life of a woman, especially for those who have spent their entire childhood living as a boy. There are no official statistics, but when asked, many Afghans have stories of neighbours, friends and relatives who have dressed a daughter as a boy. The stories concern women of many generations.

Oppression of women, and of boys, in Afghanistan

This article describes a depressing phenomenon amongst the Pashtun in Afghanistan: Women are viewed as either so inaccessible, or so unclean (it seems to vary) that they cease to be viable objects of sexual desire for many men. The men turn instead to boys, many so young that real consent isn’t possible. And this all seems to be widely accepted in the culture. You might think there’s a bright spot to this: surely it constitutes acceptance of homosexuality. But you’d be wrong: homosexuality is still vilified, but defined in such a way that men having sex with boys doesn’t count.

A nice illustration of the ways that various oppressions can interconnect, and help to sustain each other, sometimes in surprising (if depressing) ways. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Back to the Future: Afghanistan in 2050

This discussion originally appeared at Chicago Boyz, who this month held a round table on Afghanistan in 2050: an exploration into what the next forty years might look like. It is reposted here with permission of Feminist Philosophers, with many thanks.

A nurse instructs a group of young mothers on post-natal care.

Two women flip through records in the local shop, asking questions of the gentleman who works there.

Young girls laugh in the sunshine as their Girl Scout leader teaches them a song.

This is Afghanistan in 2050; it looks remarkably like Afghanistan in 1950. Men and women walk the streets without fear of death by stoning; women choose to shop with uncovered heads; education is widespread and equally available for all Afghans.

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The differences between Afghanistan pre-Taliban and Afghanistan post-Taliban are challenging to conceive. From 1996 until the invasion of the United States in 2001, the world as Afghanistan knew it changed dramatically, and undeniably for the worse. The lot of women under the Taliban’s harsh regime was devastating. But perhaps the greatest hope for Afghanistan in 2050 is to look into its past.

100527_19-Afghanistan-148

From the ’50’s to the ’70’s, Afghanistan was a largely stable country under the rule of Mohammed Zahir Shah. The King steered his country slowly into modernization, opening it to the West and allowing his subjects greater political freedom. The culture of the time also liberalized, providing social freedoms for both men and women. Notably, women were allowed into the work force, chose whether to cover or uncover their hair and bodies, and had more substantial agency over their own lives.

100527_9-Afghanistan-73

This, then, is the challenge Afghanistan should undertake: undo the last sixty years of repression and throw as much weight as possible behind the cause of Afghan women. As Afghanistan pushes, and is pushed, towards control of its own destiny over the next four decades, perhaps the best hope for the country’s future lies with its female citizens.

Social freedoms. By endeavoring to return to the mid-twentieth century’s quality of life, Afghanistan sees a greater level of equality between men and women. Women’s lives are not consolidated in the private sphere but are expanded outward into the public sphere. Women take part in public works and enterprises, seek employment and enrichment outside the realm of the family culture, and express their own agency through their fashion, creative efforts, and social choices. Girls have the same access to education as boys, and a majority of young Afghans can expect a secondary education.

Economic reforms. The use of microloans and other economic projects directs capital to Afghan women, encouraging them to engage in private enterprise that dovetails with the social freedoms allowing women more access to the public sphere. Independent economic vitality pushes against political restrictions, building up the political voice and goals of Afghan women in their national and local governments. Political action affects government economic policy, loosening restrictions on female entrepreneurship and providing mechanisms for further investment in local business, including female-run entities. More local business helps to bolster Afghan’s struggling economy, pushing back against revenue from poppy farming and black market timber sales. Afghanistan invests in itself, spurred by its investment in women.

Religious tolerance. Afghanistan is, and will always be, an Islamic state. But as the combination of social and economic reforms changes the relationship of citizens to state, so too does it change the relationship of state to religion. Not unlike Syria or Jordan, Afghanistan gradually reduces the state-based restrictions on its population, particularly its female citizens, moving religious doctrine from the governmental realm to the private realm. Previously imposed restraints on public and private behaviour are eased and individuals gain more self-selection when it comes to how they choose to express their religion.

What I describe here is not a panacea; these changes, should they come, are gradual and slow-moving in nature. Alleviating the quality of life of women in Afghanistan will not solve the country’s many ills in every sector of its society. But these changes are most assuredly a necessity, to answer in part for twenty years of repression, poverty, and hardship.

From the vantage point of 2010, these changes seem very far away. But rather than view these three aspects of Afghan society–social, economic, religious–as unknown progressive leaps forward, I argue instead that Afghanistan should look into its past for frameworks with which to build upon. At one time, Afghanistan grasped each of these aspect of society, and were headed down a path of greater individual freedoms and reforms for its citizens. To meet its future in 2050, Afghanistan and its people must reclaim its 1950 past. Perhaps in four decades we will again see women walking uncovered past women in niqab and know it to be the result of individual choice and freedom.

1977

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Karaka Pend is a philosopher by training and a FP junkie by passion. She blogs at Permissible Arms and has an abiding love for the Misfits. Images respectfully pulled from Foreign Policy and the NYT Lens Blog. Many thanks to Feminist Philosophers for allowing me to contribute this post.

Afghan feminists

The Guardian has an interesting article about the difficulties faced by Afghan feminists, in their bid to secure basic rights for women. It talks mainly of one feminist group – the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan – which the government sees as a dangerous group, plotting some kind of Maoist coup. In fact, RAWA are involved in delivering literacy classes to women, campaigning for more freedoms, and running orphanages for female children. You can read more here.

Another horrible Afghan law

Looks like we need some more international outrage.

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands’ sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

You might like to suggest some outrage to Barack Obama.

(Thanks, CR!)

Afghan Gov’t will change law

And sometimes things get better.  From CNN

“Now I have instructed, in consultation with clergy of the country, that the law be revised and any article that is not in keeping with the Afghan constitution and Islamic Sharia must be removed from this law,” [President] Karzai said.

The law  would have allowed very restrictive measures to be imposed on the Shia minority women. 

For ealier posts on this blog about the law, see here.