Shock and sym­pa­thy

Friday - - Society -

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

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