Moral crimes in Afghanistan

In January of 2012, the Human Rights Watch reported that about 400 women were locked away in Afghani prisons and juvenile delinquent centers for something called “moral crimes.” Today, and on the eve of a major departure of international forces from the area, that number has risen to 600.

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So what are moral crimes? They include fleeing from abusive homes, escaping arranged marriages, and having sex outside of marriage–including rape.

Yes, you read that right. Women can be prosecuted and thrown in prison for being raped.

These women–victims of crime–are jailed for their “loose morals.” Their attackers regularly enjoy impunity.

It is estimated that 110 of these women are under 18.

Afghanistan Women On The Inside

New York Times article on the issue describes a few of the accused women:

Asma W., 36, ran away from her husband after he beat her, threw boiling water on her, gave her a sexually transmitted disease and announced that he would marry his mistress. Fawzia, 15, took refuge with a family that drugged her and forced her into prostitution. Gulpari M., 16, was kidnapped off the street by a stalker who decided he wanted to marry her; she turned him in to the first policeman she saw.”

It gets worse: this month, the Afghan parliament refused to endorse Afghanistan’s 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women:

So vociferous were the law’s opponents, including religious leaders who are members of parliament, that the speaker halted debate after 15 minutes and sent the law back to parliamentary commissions for further consideration. Those against the law characterised it as a violation of Afghan religious and cultural values, ignoring Afghanistan’s history of child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence and the prosecution of rape victims.”

Afghani women’s rights activists are deeply concerned that their cause–not to mention their achievements over the last 10 years–will be abandoned once troops leave the country.

Conditions are grim, and foreign donors may “consider the plight of Afghan women to be a lost cause.”

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The Human Rights Watch outlines the major steps that the country must take if it is to protect its women and girls:

The Karzai government should abolish the practice of prosecuting women for ‘moral crimes’. All laws that discriminate against women should be amended or revoked, and the EVAW law should be fully enforced throughout the country. The government should develop and implement a plan to increase the percentage of the police force that is female. And greater support is needed for shelters for women fleeing violence so that there is at least one shelter per province.”

Education is key, but so is the relentless, hopeful support of the international community.

The “Lose the Lads’ Mags” campaign: Overdue or overzealous?

UK Feminista and Object have come together to promote the Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign, which asks stores to remove pornographic magazines from their shelves. Such images, they claim, violate the Equality Act 2010 by involuntarily exposing store staff and customers to offensive images.

According to an article by The Guardian, the groups want to take legal action against stores that continue to stock such magazines, on the grounds that this exposure “violates the dignity of individual employees or customers, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

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Others, however, disagree, arguing that banning such magazines is not only a form of censorship, but also a way to put sex workers out of work.

Here’s what I think:

1. To my knowledge, these groups are not actually trying to eradicate these magazines, they’re just trying to get them off the shelves of mainstream stores, where all sorts of non-pornography seeking people have to see and/or sell them. Sell these types of publications in more, ah, appropriate places. Specialized shops and the like.

2. I think it’s interesting that all sorts of people suddenly come of the woodwork to protect the rights of sex workers when there’s talk of materials getting banned. Are job opportunities in the sex work economy really these dissenters’ number one priority?

3. It’s important to note that we’re not just talking about pornography. We’re talking about public images of men and women in objectifying poses, and in a patriarchal society, we’re especially addressing such images of women. These pictures are humiliating and offensive to some people in the same way that images with racist or homophobic themes are. Why? Because these images play to a culture that enjoys the marginalization and oppression of specific groups of people.

An example of "redface"

An example of “redface”

The bottom line is, if you have no problem whatsoever with public pornographic images, at least try to understand why others would.

Then do some research on the working conditions that most sex workers face.

Sex crimes and social media

Just when you thought sex crimes in our society couldn’t get any more shameful or disgusting, rapists are now partaking in a new appalling trend: sharing pictures and videos of their victims, pre- and post-crime, via social media sites.

What’s perhaps even more horrifying is that the accused perpetrators are young teenage boys, most between the ages of 14 and 17. Most acting in groups.

Their victims? Girls as young as 11, 12 and 13 years old. Children.

And there are pictures and videos of these children being raped and abused, being passed around like trophies and souvenirs.

This article outlines the most recent cases, and tragically, there are quite a few.

But how and why is this happening in the first place?

This article sheds some light on the deeply troubling statistics surrounding the issue:

The rate of sexual assaults is alarmingly high among adolescents. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice finds that 30% to 35% of female sexual assault survivors were first raped between the ages of 11 to 17. Many of these assaults occur when victims are under the influence of alcohol, and a surprising number of adolescent rapes involve multiple perpetrators. A recent study found that 12.4% of sexual assaults committed against 13- to 17-year-old teens were gang rapes.

Then, there’s this:

Rape is a crime of power and dominance, and social media provide new ways of asserting that power to hurt victims over and over again. Gang rape takes on a whole new meaning when images and slurs are posted and forwarded and spread endlessly. Adolescent sexual assaults are particularly likely to go viral (more so than instances of adult rape) because of the “everyone knows everything about everyone” culture of middle and high school. The ubiquity of cell phones with cameras and the power of the Internet make for faster, farther-reaching gossip, name-calling, character assassination and ultimately despair for the victim.

And most disturbingly:

What was once a horrible incident that the victim remembers and suffers in private agony has now become an all-you-can-watch public humiliation event.

Bragging about sex crimes on social media is a new fold in the cyber bullying phenomenon and it needs to be actively combatted. But it’s also a new way for police to investigate crimes and prosecute criminals. These boys are cruel and careless, and the very evidence they flaunt should secure them a very long time behind bars.