Moral Low Ground


Afghan Woman Mah Gul Beheaded by Mother-in-Law and Cousin for Refusing Prostitution

Afghan women are some of the most repressed on earth. (Photo: ISAF Media/Flickr Creative Commons)

An Afghan woman and her nephew allegedly beheaded the woman’s daughter-in-law after the victim refused to be coerced into prostitution.

The Atlantic reports that 20-year-old Mah Gul was killed last Sunday in Herat province, southwestern Afghanistan, near the Iranian border. Local police claim that Gul’s mother-in-law, Pari Gul, and her 18-year-old nephew Najibullah have confessed to the killing.

According to police, Gul was killed because she repeatedly rejected the mother-in-law’s attempts to force her into prostitution.

Najibullah, who confessed to the killing before a group of reporters on October 15, said that Pari Gul forced him to participate in the grisly crime.

“My uncle’s wife told me I should kill this person,” he said. “I said I couldn’t kill her. She told me, ‘If you can’t kill her, then help me do it.’ She forced me and I helped her.”

“She held [Mah Gul’s] legs while I beheaded her,” he confessed.

Gul’s murder is “one more incident that highlights the violent atmosphere that women and girls face in Afghanistan and the region,” Suzanne Nossel of Amnesty International told CNN.

Indeed, some 20 women have been killed in Herat province this year. Earlier this month, the body of a 30-year-old woman was found in Herat’s Pamanare district. The victim had been tortured before she was killed and was missing her nose, ears and fingers.

According to the US State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, “Afghan women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution, forced marriages– including through forced marriages in which husbands force their wives into prostitution.”

Despite having made some gains since the fall of the Taliban more than a decade ago, Afghan women and girls 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. Rape victims, including children, are being forced to marry their attackers or face long prison sentences. A proposed 2009 marriage law would have permitted marital rape and requited a husband’s permission for a woman to work or attend school. International outcry led to the removal of the most outrageous bits of the law; now instead of demanding sexual submission women are merely required to perform certain household chores. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has endorsed a “code of conduct” for women that allows husbands to beat their wives and dictates that women should not travel without a male guardian.

Following the Mah Gul case, ABC News reports that Mohammad Anwar was arrested in Herat’s provincial capital and has allegedly confessed to stabbing his wife to death to prevent her from taking a job outside her home.

In neighboring Pakistan, a 14-year-old activist named Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen earlier this month for promoting girls’ education and calling attention to Taliban atrocities. Yousufzai survived and was airlifted to Britain for medical treatment. She is expected to recover.

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