• Rise in women jailed for "moral" crimes

Rise in women jailed for "moral" crimes

21 May 2013

Human Rights Watch says around 600 Afghan women are currently imprisoned for so-called “moral” crimes - the highest number since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

In a news release issued today, the organisation says the number of women jailed for such crimes has increased by 50 per cent over the past 18 months.

“Four years after the adoption of a law on violence against women and twelve years after Taliban rule, women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape,” says  Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s  Asia director.

“The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims,” he says.

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Afghan government to take urgent steps to halt what it describes as this “ alarming increase”.  It notes,  “Commitments by senior government officials to end such abuses have had little practical impact.”

In a report released in March 2012, Human Rights Watch said that some 95 percent of girls and 50 percent of women imprisoned in Afghanistan were accused of the “moral crimes” of “running away” from home or having sex outside of marriage.  It said many of those fleeing their homes were escaping forced marriage or domestic violence.

It says the imprisoned women and girls it interviewed for that report “described abuses including forced and underage marriage below age 16, beatings, stabbings, burnings, rapes, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and threats of ‘honor killing.’”  It adds that  virtually none of these cases had even led to the abuse even being investigated, let alone prosecution or punishment.

Human Rights Watch also criticises what it describes as the routine use of “virginity tests” on females accused of “moral crimes”.

According to Adams,  “Coerced ‘virginity’ examinations are a form of sexual assault.  Afghan police, without any scientific basis, are routinely forcing these unspeakable examinations on women and girls.”

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