Sixty-two children live behind bars in Badam Bagh prison and share cells with their mothers and up to five other women. Most of the inmates are jailed for so-called ‘moral crimes’ such as leaving their husbands or refusing an arranged marriage. Nuria had a son in jail (pictured) and was sentenced because she wanted to divorce the man her parents forced her to marry. She is still serving out her sentence. I have no idea why she would be jailed for divorcing her husband because the Koran (Quran) gives women this right.
Mariam was raped at gunpoint and has been jailed because she shot the rapist. Women’s activists say 12 years after Taliban rule ended there have been hardly any improvements. She fled her country home to escape vicious beatings from her husband. In Kabul, she made the mistake of contacting and trusting her husband’s cousin. He sent a friend and it was this friend that raped her.
Six people often share a cell and inmates attend a variety of classes during the week, ranging from basic literacy, to crafts and sewing, with the intention of giving the women a skill once they leave the prison.
Nuria went to court to demand a divorce from a husband she was forced by her parents to marry.
She said: ‘I wanted to get a divorce but he wouldn’t let me go. I never wanted to marry him. I loved someone else but my father made me. He threatened to kill me if I didn’t.’
Nuria said she pleaded with her father before her marriage but he would not relent.
‘When I went to court for the divorce, instead of giving me a divorce, they charged me with running away,’she said.
The man she wanted to marry was also charged and is now serving time in Afghanistan’s notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison, one of the country’s largest prisons that has a reputation for the maltreatment of inmates.
The baby she gave birth to is her husbands and he has even offered to have the courts set her free if she returns, but Nuria has refused.
‘He wants me to come home now because I have his son but I said no. I will wait until my sentence is up’, she said.
Adia is seven-months pregnant and will have her baby in prison after she left her drug addict husband.
She returned to her parents’ home but they wanted her to return to him. Instead she escaped with another man.
Adia, 20, said: ‘It wasn’t a romance. I was desperate to get away and he said he would help me but he didn’t he just left me. I went to the court. I was angry. I wanted him charged and my husband charged but instead they charged me and sentenced me to six years.
‘I went back to court to appeal the conviction and this time I was sentenced to seven and a half years.’
Even President Hamid Karzai began making statements that harkened back to the Taliban rule saying women really should be accompanied by a man while outside their home.
A new law was enacted called the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW), but its implementation is erratic and rare, says the United Nations Assistance Mission on Afghanistan.
While it might not be against the law to run away or escape a forced marriage, the courts routinely convict women fleeing abusive homes with ‘the intent to commit zina (or adultery)’ which are most often simply referred to as ‘moral crimes,’ says a UNAMA report.
“Perceptions toward women are still the same in most places, tribal laws are the only laws followed and in most places nothing has changed in the basics of women’s lives.
‘There are policies and papers and even laws but nothing has changed,’ said Zubaida Akbar whose volunteer Haider organization fights for women’s rights and sends lawyers and aid workers to the women’s prison to defend the inmates in court.
Zubeida, the women’s activist, said despite what she calls a veneer of change, little is different for most Afghan women.
‘We have the appearance of everything, but when you dig in deep down below the surface nothing fundamentally has changed. It has been tough. It has been really tough,’ she said.
Paula comments: I am going to join Amnesty International as I feel so helpless towards helping fight injustice for women world-wide.
Source: Daily Mail Newspaper, UK. April, 2013