Jan 12, 2012

Sahar Gul’s Story, A Clear Image of Women’s Life in Afghanistan

By Basir Ahang

photo source: thedailybeast.com

On December 27th, 2011, 15 year old Sahar Gul was discovered imprisoned in her in-law’s musty, dark cellar by the Baghlan Province Police. Seven months earlier, while living in Badakhshan Province, Sahar had been forced into marriage. The police report stated the young girl had been imprisoned, tortured and violently beaten by the husband and his family because she refused to work and earn money as a prostitute.

Sahar was in critical condition when she arrived to a hospital in Polikhomri. The doctors reported she had multiple injuries from the abuse, including a broken shoulder and head trauma. Her torture included someone pulling her fingernails out.

After stabilization, Sahar was transferred to a hospital in Kabul. Soraya Dalil, Supervisor of the Ministry of Health, told journalists that Sahar Gul’s physical condition should improve in several months, but the consequences of negative psychological shocks may remain throughout her lifetime.

Sahar Gul’s story is only one of the thousands of stories of torture and cruel abuse currently experienced daily by Afghanistan women. Whether defamation or traditional conservativeness, most of these women’s stories will continue to remain untold. Seeking justice for their suffering would only expose them; leaving minimal chances for survival after retaliation from the abuser.

What happened to fifteen year old Sahar Gul, her forced marriage, torture and abuse, is a clear example of violation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Despite the president of the country visiting Sahar in the hospital and ordering the abusive family to be prosecuted, these cases have appeared thousands of times before only to find the violators have gone unpunished.

This violence against Sahar Gul has been vastly reported by media and human rights activists. Once again, the concern for women’s rights in Afghanistan is being voiced louder than ever. When will violators be prosecuted and imprisoned as punishment for their crimes against women?

Last month, the office of UNAMA (United Nations Assisted Mission in Afghanistan) in Kabul criticized the Afghan government for limited application of the "Elimination of Violence Against Women Law“. Based on a UNAMA report, of the 2,299 reported cases of violence against women recorded between March 2010 and June 2011, only 26 cases were processed. Also in this report, only 7% of violators were condemned to punishment by the Afghan courts.

Enacted in 2009, this "Elimination of Violence Against Women Law" forbids more than twenty types of violence against women, including underage marriages, forced marriages, forced suicide and forbids any exchange of a female to resolve a dispute. Rape and physical attacks on women are also considered crimes for sentencing.

Afghanistan Human Rights Commission states there were 1,026 reported cases of violence against women in the first six months of 2011. In most cases, the women are very afraid to file a complaint, stating there is a considerable chance they will be punished severely for doing so. Another 2011 report by OXFOM, shows 87% of Afghanistan women have experienced physical violence including physical and sexual harassment or forced marriage.