Up to 60% of girls in Afghanistan are married by the age of 16. In poor, rural areas, 80% of those marriages are arranged, which often results in young females marrying men as old as 50 or 60. It's estimated 90% of women don't leave their home until they are married, their bodies must be guarded to protect virginity, ensure that their progeny are legitimately fathered, and even after they've been married off and move into a new home, they are still cooped up in the house. When Afghan women take action to escape victimization they are often victimized again. Women running away from home can be imprisoned, and rape victims can be convicted of adultery, or killed for compromising family honor. ¨At best, they may find refuge in a shelter, but that too is little better than a prison since it puts them in a limbo from which there is no easy exit¨ explains The Middle East Institute.
Families take their honor very seriously, for example how a young female was raped by a neighbor who had been taken into police custody for her own protection. Her family intended to kill her because the shame of her violation had compromised their honor. For most, shame leads to the rejection or elimination of the harmed woman or girl and also helps save face in suggesting to the despoiler that what was despoiled was not worth much to the family anyway. ¨ for most women, little has meaningfully changed since the days of the Taliban. It remains taboo for an Afghan woman to be seen in public without a burqa, although it is not required by law. Women and girls are still largely uneducated and confined to their homes, with few prospects for gainful employment. Girls are often the most marginalized and vulnerable ̈ says The Ray of Hope Foundation. Women in Afghanistan have little to no rights, being treated as objects instead of human beings, people acting as though they are prizes to be won over then too throw away, like they are disposable, having no say in what happens to them.
Today, there are over 300 female peace activists, trying to build a better community for their children and to make their voices heard. The fight for women's rights in Afghanistan is still going on, and it seems to be far from over.
Story by Emma Simpson