A different kind of hell

Women are like shoes, or gloves. Shoes don’t make any sense by themselves, they make sense only on feet. Women don’t make any sense by themselves, they make sense only owned by men.

At least that’s how most people in Afghanistan see it.

To escape an abusive marriage, Wida Saghari struggled for five years to finalize a divorce. When it was done, she thought, finally, she could get some peace. Instead, she had stepped into a different kind of hell.

Ms. Saghari, 31, a mother of two who has worked for years as a television host, found that neither Afghan society nor the government sees young divorced women as adults who can function independently of men.

And women also confront persistent harassment, much of it insinuative or sexual, beginning even during the divorce proceedings.

“You are like a piece of china that everyone, every minute, can hit to the ground to break you,” Ms. Saghari said.

It’s just how women are. We’re deficient. We’re like half a bridge, that doesn’t work unless it’s attached to the other half. Men are whole bridges, but women aren’t.

The most dangerous time for women may be when they seek to leave, but they also face a pervasive and persistent social struggle after divorce: The most mundane activities become daunting obstacles. Often, the easiest way is to hide the fact that they are divorced.

“I did not tell anyone about my status — sometimes, I told them my husband is in Iran,” said Zahra Yaganah, 32, an activist and writer who published her first novel last year. A mother of two teenagers, she has been divorced for about a decade. “But when people find out that I am divorced — I feel like a divorced woman is up for grabs for the men around her.”

She’s like a sandwich. You don’t leave a sandwich just lying around uneaten. It’s a waste, and it might attract rats.

Ms. Yaganah said her divorced status followed her everywhere, from the office to her apartment block, with men thinking that she was an easy target.

“As a divorced woman,” she said, “to them you are a thing — like a pot without a cover.”

Men have approached her privately. Married senior officials have invited her on foreign trips. Two years ago, after a celebration for International Women’s Day at her office, a male colleague she had worked with for only three days started sending her text messages.

“He told me that: ‘Your dress was beautiful. Let’s we two have a celebration together tonight, and be with me all the night,’” Ms. Yaganah said. “I was in shock for three days.”

She’s like a horse that’s been broken in. Why waste all that breaking in? Might as well ride her.

H/t Gretchen

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