Cost of Hon­our

Afghan women con­tinue to suf­fer from se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Me­dieval mores and prac­tices still per­sist de­spite se­ri­ous ef­forts by the gov­ern­ment and aid-givers that Afghan so­ci­ety should get out of out­dated be­liefs.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Saleem Khan

Women in Afghanistan are sub­jected to so­cial and le­gal atroc­i­ties even af­ter the fall of the sup­pres­sive Tal­iban regime. They are treated like a herd of sheep be­ing taken care of by a shep­herd, or as con­cu­bines wait­ing to please their masters. Such a re­duced sta­tus does not re­flect truly on the pres­tige an Afghan woman is tra­di­tion­ally en­ti­tled to, given the fact that the hon­our of a woman is the most pres­ti­gious thing

in a tribal so­ci­ety. But the coun­try has be­come the most dan­ger­ous place for women in re­cent times due to the continuous po­lit­i­cal chaos, law­less­ness, wide­spread con­cocted mores and a his­tory of women sup­pres­sion.

A global rights watch­dog, the Hu­man Rights Watch, has ve­he­mently chas­tised per­form­ing vir­gin­ity tests. “Th­ese so-called vir­gin­ity tests are not just de­mean­ing. They con­sti­tute sex­ual as­sault and are of­ten used as ev­i­dence against women in court for the ‘crime’ of sex out­side of mar­riage,” it says. The Afghanistan In­de­pen­dent Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (AIHRC) has also re­buked vir­gin­ity tests and called them “a clear vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights and an in­di­ca­tion of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and even tor­ture.” The prac­tice of vir­gin­ity tests in Afghanistan came to the lime­light when the com­mis­sion re­leased its re­port in 2016 which stated that 48 out of 53 women who were ac­cused of sex out of wed­lock were com­pelled to prove their in­no­cence through a vir­gin­ity exam. Some of them had gone through such ex­ams three to four times. It was trau­matic as well as hu­mil­i­at­ing for both the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

Med­i­cal sci­ence de­bunks the au­then­tic­ity of du­bi­ous vir­gin­ity tests. Rather, a proper ex­am­i­na­tion con­ducted by qual­i­fied doc­tors is re­quired to get the true pic­ture.

Some ac­tual sto­ries of vic­tims raise doubts about the ve­rac­ity of the sup­posed vir­gin­ity tests. Ac­cord­ing to Hu­maira Qarizada who is the man­ager of the aid group Women for Afghan Women in Lowz­jan, a girl who had run away with her lover, was ar­rested and sent to hospi­tal for foren­sic med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. She was sen­tenced to three months in prison. Soon she was re­leased when a se­cond test in the same hospi­tal re­vealed that she was still a vir­gin. This shows how un­re­li­able such vir­gin­ity ex­ams are.

Prac­tic­ing of vir­gin­ity tests is a part of a big­ger prob­lem preva­lent in Afghanistan. The U.S. has spent more than a bil­lion dol­lars on le­gal re­forms in Afghanistan, yet its le­gal sys­tem is os­ten­si­bly bi­ased to­wards women. When the Afghan po­lice bring women charged with com­mit­ting adul­tery to the courts, the med­i­cally un­proven vir­gin­ity tests are con­sid­ered re­li­able ev­i­dence against the ac­cused. Sim­i­larly, the U.S. gov­ern­ment has given over a bil­lion dol­lars to the Afghan gov­ern­ment for the pur­pose of em­pow­er­ing Afghan women. How­ever, the funds ap­par­ently have gone in vain as women are still wait­ing to see their rights pro­tected.

Sex is a taboo in a con­ser­va­tive Afghan so­ci­ety and women are ex­pected to ad­here to so­cial val­ues by not in­dulging in it. The slight­est di­gres­sion from the val­ues by a woman might re­sult in so­cial dev­as­ta­tion, break­ing of fam­ily ties and, some­times, even death in the name of hon­our. The male-dom­i­nated Afghan so­ci­ety does not show mercy to a woman who is proven morally-cor­rupt by some faulty vir­gin­ity tests. Such a woman leads a mis­er­able life as noted by an Afghan woman who pre­ferred not to give her name, “It’s a big deal in Afghanistan.“Al­though Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani has an­nulled per­form­ing vir­gin­ity tests, the prac­tice is com­mon across the coun­try, pos­ing a gloomy pic­ture of Afghan women.

Afghanistan has be­come the most dan­ger­ous place for women in re­cent times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.