Fate of Afghan Teen Forced to Marry Rapist Is Up to America


woman in burqa in afghanistanBy the end of next year, 40,000 U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan, but the battle to save some of the country's most abused victims has barely begun. Just consider this heartwrenching example of what's happened there this week: A 19-year-old Afghan woman, who goes by the name Gulnaz, was imprisoned for adultery for more than two years, after she reported that she had been raped and impregnated by a cousin. (She gave birth to the child in jail.) Yesterday, faced with pressure from a grass-roots movement that began after Gulnaz was featured in a recent documentary film, the Afghan government announced the young woman's release from jail ... with one caveat: She has to marry her rapist.

Sadly, Gulnaz's story isn't an anomaly -- almost half of the country's female prisoners are in jail for similar situations, chalked up to Afghan "cultural practices."

The idea that this blatant abuse of women is happening -- repeatedly! -- in our world in the 21st century is sick and unfathomable enough. But what makes it even worse is that our forces are turning a blind eye, when they could at least be attempting to advance women's rights there.

Along with other Western forces -- perhaps with the help of the U.N.? -- we should be doing more to aid Afghan women. Gulnaz herself has actually received assistance from filmmaker Clementine Malpas, who shot the documentary (called In-Justice: The Story of Afghan Women in Jail) that started the movement to free Gulnaz, and an American lawyer named Kimberley Motley, who took on Gulnaz's case pro bono. And the two women have tried to get Gulnaz to go to a shelter, but as of right now, she feels forced to adhere to Afghan cultural norms. Malpas explained:

Gulnaz said, "My rapist has destroyed my future. No one will marry me after what he has done to me. So I must marry my rapist for my child’s sake. I don’t want people to call her a bastard and abuse my brothers. My brothers won’t have honor in our society until he marries me."

Ugh! Obviously, given the social, cultural, and political forces at work in Afghanistan to keep women oppressed, addressing their basic human rights is a seemingly hopeless job. One that even the Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai can't get a hold on. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying. The U.S. and other countries that value human rights must pressure Karzai and the Afghan government, holding them accountable for these atrocities. For starters, how about making sure they start throwing the rapists themselves in jail -- not the victims! It's not impossible -- after all, human rights groups who petitioned for Gulnaz's release from jail succeeded. The next step is going to take looking beyond jail cells and targeting the sentences women are forced to serve, simply by living in Afghan society.

What do you make of Gulnaz's case and women like her? Do you think the U.S. could be doing more to help them?


Image via Afghanistan Matters/Fickr

terrorism, military, human rights, in the news, feminism


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Kim3787 Kim3787

As sad as things like this are, I believe the United States should realize that we have no right telling other countries how they should be run, for better or worse.

Kritika Kritika

I agree. Until their own people rise up and say ENOUGH nothing will ever change.

PonyC... PonyChaser

There are so many intracies to how the laws of Islam and (dare I say it) Shariah Law are interpreted that we cannot even begin to address them here. But perhaps we should start by examining all those groups here in America who insist on supporting *radical* Islam as just another "peaceful religion". It is not. It is as bad, or worse, as the extremist Christian Cults that are out there, that end up committing mass suicide/murder in the name of Jesus.

This has been going on for centuries, and until there is a groundswell from within, nothing is going to change. We can continue to help, on a case-by-case basis, but honestly, how are we supposed to help this girl when she refuses to help herself? She said it, "I must marry this man or my brothers lose their honor." This is how she's been raised. She believes this is right. Until the women over there understand that there is another way - and that means rejecting ALL of the religious, social, moral teaching that has gone on for their entire lives and longer - there will be no change. No matter how much we want it.

Kim3787 Kim3787

@ PonyChaser
Very well said (typed)!

fraoch fraoch

As sad as things like this are, I believe the United States should realize that we have no right telling other countries how they should be run, for better or worse.



bills... billsfan1104

Why should HIllary Clinton be ashamed of herself?? She cannot help every single person.

PonyC... PonyChaser

At the risk of beating a drum, THIS is why America, with all of her flaws, is the greatest society in the world. We delude ourselves that people here are being "oppressed". We indulge nonsense like OWS (which, if they had stuck to their original message against corruption in gov't and Wall Street, might have had traction), with their nonsense of "we're so mistreated because rich people have money that they worked for... they should give it to us", and their concept of the 99%....

I saw a thing on Pinterest the other day (of all places), but it's directly relevant here: "If you have food in your fridge and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75% of the world's population. If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and your pocket, you are in the top 8%. ... If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people who are alive and suffering..." There's more to it, but you get the idea.

People constantly bash this country for being "unfair" or "oppressive" or any number of other atrocities. And then we read a story like this.

If it does nothing else, may it cause you to pause and thank whatever Higher Power you believe in, that you were born a woman in this country. Because you will NEVER be forced by society to marry your rapist, or be stoned to death for being ACCUSED of having had an affair.

nonmember avatar kallmered

Being in the military may have helped my knowledge of this, but there have been many female (and male) airmen, soldiers, marines, etc. that have actively worked with the women of Afganistan. They do understand and acknowledge the inequality but at the same time they respected the culture of that foreign land. They instead offered they only thing they could; friendship and aid. You can find photos of females in uniform beside groups of Afgan women and their kids; they are always smiling too. It would be worse for those women if we kicked in every door of those homes and drag her away from anything she had ever known. Take heart that at least the Afgan women are not being ignored by selfless servicemen and women.

Nraw2011 Nraw2011

"who insist on supporting *radical* Islam as just another "peaceful religion"

I've know many Muslims, my cousin is Muslim.  I've never heard ANYONE support radical Islam as peaceful and fun loving.  And trust me it's not as simple as these girls don't want to help themselves.  They don't have many options.  

@kallmered  Thank You for that.  

nonmember avatar Finnja

I guess, what can be done is helping Afgan women to get an education so they can make their own living and know that their cultural norms are not the 'only truth'. (Education for men might also be helpful, for that matter). But it is a matter of decades and of the soicety itself until such tribal norms can be broken down. No one can 'order' that. Actually, in Kabul you'll find educated young women, who work and have 'heir own life' (it was actually pretty normal under the communist regime). But outside the cities, it is still 'the old ways'...

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