Rape in Afghanistan
|Effects and motivations|
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent. This can include one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.
Rape in Afghanistan is largely under-reported. In many cases, the victim is punished under Afghan culture, although Islamic law states that the rapist must be punished and not the victim. Violence against women in Afghanistan reached record levels in 2013, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). Women are respected for their virginity, and it is rare for a man to marry a rape victim. Even if the woman gets pregnant, it is uncommon for the rapist to marry her. Thus a woman is now punished for being "impure". The authorities treat such cases as adultery. Even if the woman is not punished, she remains rejected by society as "dishonorable" (badnaam in Pashto), while the rapist is not considered dishonored.
Afghanistan is currently being led by President Ashraf Ghani. Afghanistan does not currently have any laws that directly address and protect rape victims or at risk groups. In Islam, it is illegal to sexually assault someone, including rape and is considered a very great sin. In Afghanistan, rape is a crime although Afghanistan passed the Shia Family Law in 2009 under Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The United Nations Development Fund for Women, NATO, Canada, United States, Germany and other nations have come forward expressing concern over the oppressive nature of the law. The Shia Family law takes away women's rights within a marriage and specifies that Shia women must submit to their husband's demands. It even specifies that they must have sex with their husbands at least once every four days except in the case of illness. The law will only apply to Shia women, which totals around 6 million. The argument in favor of this law is that it is an improvement upon the customary regional law imposed previously. With the support of the conservative and political elite, Afghan courts have taken, and continue to take, action in efforts to remove, lessen, or limit women's rights.
Available Statistics and Stigma
Rape in Afghanistan is a crime which can be legally prosecuted, but in practice it is very rarely reported, because of the immense risks that women face if they report it. Rape victims in the country face a double risk of being subjected to violence: on one hand they can become victims of honor killings perpetrated by their families, and on the other hand they can be victimized by the laws of the country. Women also undertake many smaller personal risks to their social status and daily life: they can be charged with adultery, a crime that can be punishable by death. Furthermore, they can be forced by their families to marry their rapist which is especially likely if the woman becomes pregnant.
Rape victims in Afghanistan are more stigmatized than the rapists. Women who are raped can and are often be punished. While their male counterparts rarely face jail time when accused of rape. Women are often punished as "fornicators" under the zina, the part of Islamic law that has to do with unlawful sexual intercourse. Women are often persuaded to marry their rapist in hopes of restoring honor to her family. This is also done so the rapist can avoid facing charges. Thus putting women in the, very often dangerous position, of either marrying the man who raped and attacked them or facing honor crimes, possibly murder, at the hands of their own family members.
In 2013, Afghanistan made international news in regard to the story of a woman who was raped by a man, jailed for adultery, gave birth to a child in jail, and was then subsequently pardoned by then president Hamid Karzai, as international interest and outrage grew. And in the end of her whole ordeal, societal pressure and her families pressure she was forced to marry the man who raped her.
In 2012, Afghanistan recorded 240 cases of honor killings and 160 cases of rape, but the number for both honor killings and rapes is estimated to be much higher and unreported, especially in the more rural areas. In 2013, in eastern Ghazni, a man attacked a woman and attempted to rape her, and as a result the relatives of the woman killed both the woman and the man in an honor killing. In Afghanistan, crimes such as adultery, rape and trafficking are often conflated with each other, and it is generally not acceptable for a woman and a man to be alone together (unless married or related), and if this happens the response can be very violent: an Afghan medical doctor and his female patient were attacked by an angry mob who threw stones at them after the two were discovered in his private examining room without a chaperon. Recently, the security forces have been also alleged to rape children in the country.
Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
During the Afghan-Soviet war the Soviet forces abducted Afghan women while flying in the country in search of mujahideen. In November 1980 a number of such incidents had taken place in various parts of the country, including Laghman and Kama. Soviet soldiers as well as KhAD agents kidnapped young women from the city of Kabul and the areas of Darul Aman and Khair Khana, near the Soviet garrisons, to rape them. Women who were taken and raped by Soviet soldiers were considered 'dishonoured' by their families if they returned home.
In 2015, Amnesty International reported that the Afghan Taliban had engaged in mass murder and gang rapes of Afghan civilian women and children in Kunduz. Taliban fighters killed and raped female relatives of police commanders and soldiers. The Taliban also raped and killed midwives who they accused of providing forbidden reproductive health services to women in the city. One female human rights activist described the situation:
When the Taliban asserted their control over Kunduz, they claimed to be bringing law and order and Shari’a to the city. But everything they’ve done has violated both. I don’t know who can rescue us from this situation.
In 2013, Fereshta Kazemi played the leading role in The Icy Sun, one of the first films to deal openly with rape in Afghanistan. NBC News said that her "film breaks new ground for Afghanistan, where victims of rape can be forced to marry their attackers to preserve their families' honor".
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While military operations in the country were going on, women were abducted. While flying in the country in search of mujahideen, helicopters would land in fields where women were spotted. While Afghan women do mainly domestic chores, they also work in fields assisting their husbands or performing tasks by themselves. The women were now exposed to the Soviets, who kidnapped them with helicopters. By November 1980 a number of such incidents had taken place in various parts of the country, including Laghman and Kama. In the city of Kabul, too, the Soviets kidnapped women, taking them away in tanks and other vehicles, especially after dark. Such incidents happened mainly in the areas of Darul Aman and Khair Khana, near the Soviet garrisons. At times such acts were committed even during the day. KhAD agents also did the same. Small groups of them would pick up young women in the streets, apparently to question them but in reality to satisfy their lust: in the name of security, they had the power to commit excesses.
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A final weapon of terror the Soviets used against the mujahideen was the abduction of Afghan women. Soldiers flying in helicopters would scan for women working in the fields in the absence of their men, land, and take the women captive. Soviet soldiers in the city of Kabul would also steal young women. The object was rape, although sometimes the women were killed, as well. The women who returned home were often considered dishonored for life.
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