Monday, August 18, 2008

Women imprisoned in Afghanistan for the 'crime' of being raped.

A report in The Independent makes for depressing reading:

In Lashkar Gah, the majority of female prisoners are serving 20-year sentences for being forced to have sex.

Beneath the anonymity of the sky-blue burqa, Saliha's slender frame and voice betray her young age.Asked why she was serving seven years in jail alongside hardened insurgents and criminals, the 15-year-old giggled and buried her head in her friend's shoulder.

"She is shy," apologised fellow inmate Zirdana, explaining that the teenager had been married at a young age to an abusive husband and ran away with a boy from her neighbourhood.

Ostracised from her family and village, Saliha was convicted of escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20. These are two of the most common accusations facing female prisoners in Afghanistan.

Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah's medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims – mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man.

Colonel Ghulam Ali, a high-ranking regional security officer, explained sternly that he supported the authorities' right to convict victims of rape. "In Afghanistan whether it is forced or not forced it is a crime because the Islamic rules say that it is," he claimed. "I think it is good. There are many diseases that can be created in today's world, such as HIV, through illegal sexual relations."

It seems 'progress' is being made. And what's that you may ask? Does that mean women will not be imprisoned for choosing who to have sex with or love or being raped , both as adults and children? Nope :

A female shura, or consultative council, was established in Helmand province last week to try to combat the injustice of treating an abused woman as a criminal, and not a victim. British officers and Afghan government officials from the province's reconstruction team are also overseeing a project to build humane accommodation for the 400 male and female prisoners.

Yep, lets just make their prison a little nicer :

In a separate area are the female "criminals" – the youngest is just 13 years old – along with their small children, who must stay with their mothers if no one else will claim them. Their only luxury is a carpet, two blankets, basic cooking facilities and two daily deliveries of bread. They have neither medical care nor, as Colonel Ali acknowledged, "basic human facilities", such as washing areas, electricity and drinking water. All this he hopes will be rectified when the new building his finished.

One case demonstrates the brutality and lack of worth accorded to not just women but young girls :

Pushing her five-year-old son's arm forward imploringly, Zirdana, 25, pointed to the festering wound buzzing with flies. The little boy was just two months old when his mother was convicted of murdering her husband, his father. Zirdana had been handed over to him at the age of seven, as part payment in a financial dispute. She gave birth to the first of her children when she was 11 and was pregnant with her fourth when her husband disappeared and she was accused of killing him. Her three older children were taken from her by her brother-in-law.

A report highlights the situation for women :

Earlier this year a report by Womankind, Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On, revealed that violent attacks against women, usually in a domestic setting, are at epidemic proportions – 87 per cent of women complain of such abuse, and half of it is sexual. More than 60 per cent of marriages are forced and, despite laws banning the practice, 57 per cent of brides are under 16. Many of these girls are offered as restitution for a crime or as debt settlement. Afghanistan is the only country in the world with a higher suicide rate among women than men.

So much for the west riding to the rescue of women. That doesn't mean a cheer if the Taliban take control though, even if some on the left might see that as a victory for anti - imperialism. My enemy's enemy is my friend does sod all for women, LGBT people, socialists and trade unionists .
There is nothing progressive in this, however much they hate the US, an organisation that would stop girls from having an education through violence and intimidation.

I await the first comment where I am told its all a bit unfortunate but that we must remember who the real enemy is. Tell that to the women suffering in prison or the schoolgirls attacked. The West should not be in Afghanistan but the Taliban will not be liberators in any true sense .The left should support socialists and progressive forces.As Dave puts it :

Because revolutionary socialists are implacably opposed to US imperialism, it does not follow that we are therefore indifferent to what undermines it.