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Saturday 24 May 2014

Women's Rights in Afghanistan

What is it Like to be a Woman in Afghanistan?

Image: BBC News - South Asia

We all hear snippets of news about how women are treated in Afghanistan, and a little about women's rights in that part of the world, but it was only when I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini that I really began to realize the full horror of what it was like to be a woman in a culture which values women merely as child-bearing slaves.

 It would not be unreasonable to say that, by Western standards, women's rights in most of Afghanistan are precarious or non-existent.

 Women must obey their husbands, and all the males in their household, including younger brothers.  Even boys treat their mothers in ways which we would consider disrespectful.

Domestic violence (one-way naturally) is normal.  It is not illegal for the men of the household to beat a woman by way of chastisement if she does not do as they wish, and sometimes even the woman's mother-in-law will join in to beat and punish her .  There is no such concept as marital rape, and women do not have any say in the mode or frequency of sex. Basically she is treated as a slave, to do the housework, and to do what her husband and his family tell her to do.  Before marriage, she must obey the males in her household.

In some communities, an Afghan woman must not be seen outside the home without being covered with a burkha from head to toe including her mouth, and nose.  In some cases even her eyes are covered by gauze so that they can't be seen.  Imagine having to walk around in temperatures soaring above 100 degrees muffled up like that so that you don’t attract men's attention and arouse their evil desires. It makes you wonder what sort of animals the men must be if the mere sight of a woman's nose is sufficient to ignite uncontrollable passions. It brings to mind something Golda Meir said many years ago, that if men can't control themselves when they see a woman, it should be the men who are put under curfew, not the women. 

Afghan women must not talk to strange men or any male who is not part of their family, and, of course, must never have physical contact with any man to whom she is not married.

Even if she treads carefully and conducts herself according to the morality of the society in which she lives, the Afghan woman is still likely to be subjected to beatings, but would normally avoid serious injury, such as public stoning, and public whipping,
judicially decreed by the local mullah, not to mention  assault by family members such as having boiling water or acid thrown over her. 

Oh, and I almost forgot – if an Afghan woman brings shame on her family, by refusing to marry the man chosen for her or to whom she has been sold or exchanged for land or other favors,  or if she has a relationship with a man, or behaves in any way which could be viewed as unseemly, her own family might feel morally bound to murder her. Quaintly enough, this would be considered to be an honour killing and would be socially acceptable.

Three thought-provoking films from YouTube about what it’s like to be a woman in Afghanistan.

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