Shock and sympathy
just left to “sit”, as she says they are now. “A lot of juvenile detention in Afghanistan is more punitive than rehabilitative,” she says. “By law it shouldn’t be, but sadly it’s a lot easier for judges to lock up juveniles than see through more creative sentences – open detention and probation, for example. Hopefully that will change with time.” Kimberley’s unyielding tenacity combined with genuine sympathy is her driving force. “These kids are extremely open, they don’t have a filter, so what they tell me really shocks me,” she says. “I felt very sympathetic to a lot of their stories, especially the young girls who were incarcerated after running away from arranged marriages to 50-year-old men. They were terrified of being put back in that situation. That got to me.”
Kimberley managed to make legal history again recently – this time with a case that involved a six-year-old girl whose father sold her to a man for $2,500 (Dh9,182) to pay off an overbearing debt.
The decision or mode of ‘repayment’ had been worked out through a jirga, an informal, extra-judicial proceeding where village elders decide on the outcome of a dispute. The man who chaired the jirga ruled that the girl was to be sold and forcibly engaged to the debt holder’s 19-year-old son.
Kimberley heard of this and immediately stepped in to organise a second jirga in an attempt to override the decision made by both families. She took it upon herself to speak to the village elders about this and somehow managed to convince them she should preside over the gathering – therefore having the final say.
She then argued the case – from the dirt floor of a refugee camp outside Kabul – and got her stunned male listeners to agree the debt would be settled (by an unnamed donor in some other way) and that the engagement would be annulled. Not happy to leave it there, Kimberley then got them all to sign an agreement that none of them would ever sell, barter, or trade their own daughters. Yet another first.
“A lot of lawyers were left quite confused as to how I managed that,” she laughs. “But everyone walked away very happy and the little girl is back home with her father now, and is back in school. Her education is everything.”
Rewind almost a decade and Kimberley was facing a very different kind of challenge. Back