Just because women no longer get stoned in public in Afghanistan, does not mean that a functioning law enforcement or judicial system will guarantee them justice. Afghanistan’s prisons are packed with women facing charges of “moral crimes.” Many of these women are actually girls, under the age of 18, jailed for activities hardly worthy of punishment by their own parents, let alone the judicial system.
The girls are being held for things such as running away from home (which is sometimes categorized as kidnapping—a crime committed against oneself, by oneself). Although there is no law against this, or the other so-called crime of walking down the street with a male of no relation, Article 130 of Afghanistan’s constitution allows courts to “rule in a way that attains justice in the best manner.” This often means punishing young girls that may simply be straying from social norms.
Sometimes young girls, whose marriages are arranged by their parents to much older men without their consent, will try to escape this fate by running away. Others have been accused of adultery because of similar circumstances. Once these girls are put in front of a judge, they have little hope of coming out on top. If they speak up they are seen as rebellious, and if they keep quiet they are seen as guilty.
The only cure for this over-sensitized criminal justice system, will be more participation by women, in civil society, and in the government. Women must show their government that this treatment of their daughters is not OK. Women must be the ones to amend these laws. The ability to participate in politics is at the core of our mission in Afghanistan. At Barakat we believe that the education of women is essential for a functioning democracy. If Afghanistan has any chance at successful reconstruction, women must be involved.
If women cannot speak for themselves who will speak for them?