The Dangerous Reality Of Women’s Rights In Afghanistan

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A 22-year-old Afghan woman was married against her will as a second wife to a middle-aged married man with eight children. The young woman was used as a negotiation tool to end a long-standing dispute between the two families. The dispute sprouted when her brother had killed a member of her husband’s family. Since she was forced into this marriage, she has been beaten, tortured, and abused, and has essentially become a slave in her husband’s household. With no escape route, she is now trapped under his reign.

The tradition of Baad is highly rampant in rural areas and is practiced within the Pashtun clans of Afghanistan; it consists of one family giving away their virgin daughter to another family they have a feud with in order to bring an end to the dispute. Females are used as chattel in the transactions between the male clan leaders. Despite the fact that this barbaric practice is stripping away the basic human rights of Afghan women, Baad continues to be legal to practice in Afghanistan.

In 2012, 8-year-old Shakila was kidnapped, tortured, and beaten as a consequence of her uncles who had run away with her kidnapper’s wife. She eventually escaped and stated that “They put us in a dark room with stone walls; it was dirty and they kept beating us with sticks and saying, ‘Your uncle ran away with our wife and dishonored us, and we will beat you in retaliation.”

The deep rooted patriarchy within the the Pashtun clans of Afghanistan has stripped females of their agency, which is allowing them to become targets used as commodities to settle disputes between clan leaders.

Recently, human rights activists in Afghanistan, such as a 23-year-old teacher, Adil, have been striving to bring awareness to the injustices of the practice of Baad. Adil lost two of his sisters to the ancient practice of Baad in separate incidents, which has motivated him to speak out against the injustice inflicted upon the women of Afghanistan. Human rights activists have been demanding the Conservative government of Afghanistan to enforce laws to protect women’s rights. Unfortunately, the Conservative government of Afghanistan has continuously displayed their lack of regard for protecting women’s rights. Additionally, with foreign troops rapidly withdrawing from Afghanistan, the lack of military presence merged with an ultra-conservative government has produced a state of lawlessness, which is unleashing vulnerability upon the women and girls of Afghanistan.

This year marks the one-year anniversary of the religious scholar Farkhunda, who was lynched and burned to death after she was falsely accused of burning the Quran. Fast-forward to one year later, and there has been limited progress in the domain of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Females residing in the rural areas of Afghanistan are beaten, abused and prohibited from an education. Ultimately, they are left at the mercy of their male clan leaders who aim to enforce a patriarchal and extremist stream of Islam. The lack of government resources available to women hinders them from releasing themselves from this continuous cycle of oppression, thus preventing women from breaking down the patriarchy embedded in ancient traditions and practices. By stripping women of their basic human rights they are prevented from igniting positive change. Consequently, this illustrates a dangerous future for women’s rights in Afghanistan.