Afghan Rape Victim’s Horrific Ultimatum: Marry Her Attacker and Risk ‘Honor Killing’ or Serve 12 Years in Prison
An Afghan woman raped by her cousin’s husband now faces a horrible choice: marry her attacker or serve 12 years behind bars.
Oh, and she’s given birth to a baby fathered by the rapist.
CNN reports on the harrowing tale of a woman identified only as Gulnaz. She was raped two years ago by her cousin’s husband and instead of the sympathy and support that should always be shown to rape victims, Gulnaz ended up in prison. She tried to hide her pregnancy, but her subterfuge could only last so long. At age 19, she was found guilty under Afghanistan’s strict Islamic law of extramarital sex and sentenced to 12 years incarceration.
Gulnaz refused to give up her baby– the child is serving the sentence with her in Kabul’s Badam Bagh Jail.
There is one way out for Gulnaz: she can marry her rapist. In Afghan culture, doing so would give her child a family and perhaps restore her honor.
Gulnaz says she would do it.
“I was asked if I wanted to start a new life by getting released, by marrying this man”, she told CNN. “My answer was that one man dishonored me, and I want to stay with that man. My daughter is a little innocent child. Who knew I would have a child in this way. A lot of people told me that after your daughter’s born give it to someone else, but my aunt told me to keep her as proof of my innocence.”
Incredibly, Gulnaz would choose that path even though it is very possible that she could be killed by either her own family or the family of her rapist. The specter of honor killing looms large over her existence. CNN interviewed Gulnaz’s rapist in another jail; he insisted it would be her family, not his, that would kill her.
Such is the state of (in)justice in today’s U.S.-backed Afghanistan, a country that was supposed to benefit from liberation from the Shari’a-bound Taliban. But democracy and human rights have been slow to take root in the ancient land. The judicial system is rife with corruption, ineptitude and shocking human rights violations.
The Afghan constitution states that Muslims who reject Islam can be put to death, and that’s exactly what nearly happened to one man before a personal appeal for clemency by Pope Benedict XVI saved his life. One student who circulated an article about women’s rights under Islam was tried for blasphemy and sentenced to death. The execution was averted but the case speaks volumes about religious freedom and gender equality in Afghanistan, where, despite having made some gains since the fall of the Taliban, women are still treated as second-class citizens. Female students face constant danger– a wave of schoolhouse burnings, kidnappings and battery acid attacks has swept the nation. A proposed 2009 marriage law would have permitted marital rape and required a husband’s permission for a woman to work or attend school. The law would have mandated that a woman wear makeup or dress up if her husband wanted her to. International outcry led to the removal of the most outrageous bits of the law; now instead of demanding sexual submission women are merely legally required to perform certain household chores.
According to CNN, there are hundreds of cases like Gulnaz’s across Afghanistan. Her case came to light thanks to a documentary film about women’s rights in the country produced by the European Union, a film that the EU, shockingly, now wants shelved, citing concerns over the safety of the women who appear in the film. Leaked internal emails, however, tell a different story.
CNN reports that the emails express concern not for the women’s safety but rather for “relations with [Afghan] justice institutions.” In other words, highlighting the glaring human rights deficiencies in the Afghan justice system would be an embarrassment to the European Union, which even more than the United States claims that human rights are a leading priority in its foreign policy. But like its powerful neighbor across the Atlantic, the EU’s foreign policy is rife with hypocrisy. This is but the latest example.
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