Punishing "Moral Crimes" in Afghanistan

April 16, 2012

afghan women protest
Afghan Young Women for Change (YWC) activists, holding placards which read "where is justice?", take part in a protest denouncing violence against women in Afghanistan in Kabul on April 14, 2012.

Despite enormous improvements to women’s livelihoods in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, much action is needed by the Afghan government and the international community.

For example, women in Afghanistan face some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, more than half of all girls in the country do not attend school, and many women are forced into marriage shortly after puberty.

To make matter worse, women can face the prospect of being jailed for reporting violence perpetrated against them as reported in Human Rights Watch’s new report, detailing the detention of 400 women and girls imprisoned in the country for “moral crimes”.

These “moral crimes” are not crimes at all but is discrimination by the police, the judiciary and government officials against women trying to report abusive relationships. As the report notes:

[I]n one court record that Human Rights Watch reviewed, Tahmina J., 18, said she was raped. Instead of pursuing her allegations, the court’s decision warned that women should know that it is unsafe for them to go out at night, and said the victim must not have screamed very much or someone would have heard her. The court concluded that two men took Tahmina J. to an abandoned building and “sexually assaulted” her, yet convicted her of zina and sentenced her to two-and-a-half years in prison, where she remains today.

Instead of using very scarce resources to prosecute the perpetrators of serious human rights violations against women and girls, Afghanistan is prosecuting women and girls who have not committed a crime.

Human rights – and women’s rights – must be non-negotiable. The United States must affirm that it should and will help protect Afghan women. Their human rights, their safety, their very lives must not be sacrificed as U.S. troops withdraw from the country.

Take action for Afghan women and girls now