La vie en rose

Life in Afghanistan.

Asked why she was serving seven years in jail alongside hardened insurgents and criminals, the 15-year-old giggled and buried her head in her friend’s shoulder. “She is shy,” apologised fellow inmate Zirdana, explaining that the teenager had been married at a young age to an abusive husband and ran away with a boy from her neighbourhood…Ostracised from her family and village, Saliha was convicted of escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20.

‘Escaping’ from home. Escaping from ‘home.’ It was a home she was put into as if she were a parcel, or a prisoner; and in sane parts of the world, people are allowed to ‘escape’ from home if they’re miserable there. But in Afghanistan, you get up to ten years in the slammer for it. And of course twenty years for having sex with someone other than the man you were given to in childhood as if you were a parcel. Women in Afghanistan are treated like livestock.

Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah’s medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims – mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man…Colonel Ghulam Ali, a high-ranking regional security officer, explained sternly that he supported the authorities’ right to convict victims of rape. “In Afghanistan whether it is forced or not forced it is a crime because the Islamic rules say that it is,” he claimed. “I think it is good. There are many diseases that can be created in today’s world, such as HIV, through illegal sexual relations.”

Yes indeed, and punishing women for being raped is just the way to put a stop to that. Because that of course will discourage men from raping women, because – because – because if they keep doing it eventually all the women will be in prison and there will be no one left to rape? Yeah that must be it. Anyway, note the stupidity of ‘whether it is forced or not forced it is a crime because the Islamic rules say that it is.’

Pushing her five-year-old son’s arm forward imploringly, Zirdana, 25, pointed to the festering wound buzzing with flies. The little boy was just two months old when his mother was convicted of murdering her husband, his father. Zirdana had been handed over to him at the age of seven, as part payment in a financial dispute. She gave birth to the first of her children when she was 11 and was pregnant with her fourth when her husband disappeared and she was accused of killing him. Her three older children were taken from her by her brother-in-law. “When I first came to jail I cried so much blood was coming out of my mouth. My husband’s brother told me he would give my children back when I came out of jail but he has become a Talib.”

She was married to a guy who tooks her as a form of currency, and who fucked her when she was ten if not sooner.

Earlier this year a report by Womankind, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, revealed that violent attacks against women, usually in a domestic setting, are at epidemic proportions – 87 per cent of women complain of such abuse, and half of it is sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced and, despite laws banning the practice, 57 per cent of brides are under 16. Many of these girls are offered as restitution for a crime or as debt settlement.

So for women Afghanistan is pretty much one big prison, run by sadistic rapist guards. How nice.

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