Rights Group: Afghan Women Jailed for Escaping Abusive Husbands

Posted March 28th, 2012 at 9:20 am (UTC-5)
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A new report by Human Rights Watch says more than 400 women in Afghanistan are in jail for trying to escape abusive husbands and forced marriages.

The report says the women who seek to run away from such misery are frequently accused of adultery and imprisoned for so-called “moral crimes,” while their abusers walk free.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth says Afghan judicial authorities have sought to justify the arrests under a unique interpretation of Sharia law.

“Now, the Afghan supreme court has said that the crime of running away can be found in Sharia, but when we looked around the world no other government thinks that running away is in Sharia. Afghanistan stands alone in that interpretation.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 58 such women and girls for the report, including a wife who said her husband stabbed her in the head, chest, and arms with a screwdriver for inviting a male visitor into their home.

The report also cited the case of a woman was forced to marry a violent, drunken and drug-addicted man when she was only 12 years old. She and her two daughters are in prison for running away and going into hiding. The husband accused his wife of sleeping with a cousin who helped her escape.

Roth says Afghanistan's criminal justice system has made little progress in the way it treats women in the decade since the fall of the Taliban. However, Afghan officials note that the country's new constitution guarantees equal rights for women and that recent legislation outlaws violence against women.

Earlier this month, President Hamid Karzai announced a blanket pardon for women imprisoned for running away from their parents. The government says it is working on identifying and releasing these women.