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Posts tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Afghan feminist murdered in Kandahar

Earlier today, Sitara Achakzai, Afghan advocate for women’s rights, was shot and killed outside of her home in Kandahar. A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility.

Achakazai’s mother and sister live in Ontario. My condolences go out to them.


Afghanistan passes law legalizing rape

The name “Hamid” means “praised”, but in this case the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, should be condemned instead. Via Think Progress comes horrible news that he has traded women’s rights in order to advance his political career (emphasis added):

Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, has signed a law which “legalises” rape, women’s groups and the United Nations warn. Critics claim the president helped rush the bill through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.


The most controversial parts of the law deal explicitly with sexual relations. Article 132 requires women to obey their husband’s sexual demands and stipulates that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least “once every four nights” when travelling, unless they are ill. The law also gives men preferential inheritance rights, easier access to divorce, and priority in court.

A report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Unifem, warned: “Article 132 legalises the rape of a wife by her husband”.

In a massive blow for women’s rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.

“It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century,” fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. “It is totally against women’s rights. This law makes women more vulnerable.”

This is horrible

As reported by Emily Douglas at RHReality Check, a 14-year old rape victim in Afghanistan is in critical condition after an unsafe abortion was performed on her. The abortion was performed at about 5 months gestation by the girl’s brother Ali. He cut open his sister’s abdomen using a razor blade and performed the impromptu surgery. Afterwards, the wound became seriously infected. After doctors found out when the girl was taken to aid, Ali was arrested and jailed, as is his and the girl’s mother.

Even though she (the girl) was brutally raped, Ali and the mother violated the girl’s fundamental right to bodily autonomy during the unsafe abortion:

[Gulam Mohammad] Nader [one of the girl’s doctors] said the girl told him that she had not known her mother and brother’s plan when they took her into the cattle shed. She said the two of them wrestled her to the ground and held her down while they cut her stomach open. She blacked out for much of the ordeal, but she said she remembered seeing her brother hold up the fetus.

Even though the girl probably had every desire to conceal the rape (see below), this goes too far. Even if it benefited her, leading someone into a cattle shed, forcing her to the ground and cutting her open without anesthesia, all while not telling her what you are going to do and without her consent, is unacceptable. The girl’s right to bodily autonomy was violated twice, first by the rapist (who is in custody) and secondly by Ali and the mother.

This passage is disturbing:

Families in the deeply conservative country — where there are strong taboos against sex outside of marriage — often got to extreme lengths to conceal rape, which can destroy a victim’s reputation and future. Girls who are raped have little chance of ever getting married and married women are often shunned by their husbands. The victim and her family are tainted with the shame of the act and the woman is often accused of having consented to the sex.

“I told my sister that this was bad for us, for our family, and bad for the community,” Ali told the A[ssociated]P[ress].

There are problems with this situation. First, the accusation that the victim consented to the act. I suspect that this is based on the belief that unless a victim screams loud when being raped, she is consenting. This is a false dichotomy because it is ignorant of the likely possibility that she might be too scared to scream out of fear for her life. Second is the value placed on being a virgin before marriage. This leads to victim blaming. Third, the sentences about marriage imply that the only way for women to get ahead is through marriage. Fourth, and not described in the quoted paragraph, is the fact that abortion is illegal in Afghanistan, except when the woman’s life is threatened. Even then, a panel of three doctors must allow the operation to go ahead.

These problems should be solved. The first can be done be educating people about the possibility I raised, as well as working to improve societal views of women. The second can be done by education. Contraceptive distribution will also help, as it reduces population growth and allows women to control their fertility. Emergency contraception would help prevent pregnancy due to rape. (As most EC is hormonal, cost will be an issue in Afghanistan). Contraception will also solve the third problem, as it would allow women to delay childbearing and not be forced into poverty to raise children. Improving education and business opportunities for women will also help. The fourth problem can be solved by liberalizing abortion restrictions. Making it easy to get an abortion will prevent maternal mortality and also reduce the unjust shaming of rape victims by making it easier for them to hide their pregnancy. It is even better to take actions that reduce rape, such as making it clear to men that a woman must consent. And finally, these must be done from the bottom-up; doing it from the top down will likely backfire once some nationalist gets the idea to claim it is due to foreign influence invading the culture of Afghanistan.

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