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.


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.”


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.


Ms. Jolie, I’m impressed.

I read in the news yesterday (okay it was E! News–but it was an E! exclusive!) that Angelina Jolie recently opened a primary school for girls outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. Jolie, who’ve we all seen in photos for her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, plans to fund the school through the proceeds from her new jewelry line, Style of Jolie.

Now, although I don’t know the specifics of her involvement withe school (the above plaque thanks her for a generous contribution), I have to say I’m impressed with the actress. Even though we’ve heard about Jolie’s work around the world with child refugees pretty regularly over the last few years, I’d argue that most of us never knew exactly where she was or what she was doing.

We see and hear more about Brad and her brood of adopted children then we do about the specifics of her actual on-the-ground contributions. And of course, there’s a skepticism associated with any celebrity “goodwill” that’s probably deserved. We’re used to celebrities showing up for photos ops and the chance to smack their names on something charitable.

But the Qualai Gudar Girls’ School is real (and not the first school she’s funded, I learned, through her nonprofit organization the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict) and it’s giving Afghani girls real opportunities.


Bravo, Angelina. I have many questions about how the school was opened, and perhaps more importantly, how it will be kept open as a safe place for girls to get an education. But right now, I just want to say that I’m feeling hopeful. Someone from the most privileged class of American society is making tangible commitments to some of the least powerful, most endangered voices in our world.  And ironically, E! News was the first to report it.