Women Must Be Protected in Afghanistan!

The photo is shocking. A young woman lies in a hospital bed, cradling her infant, with a bandage where her nose should be. This is Raiza Gul. She married at age 15, in Afghanistan’s north, to a man named Muhammad Khan, the same man who Raiza Gul said tied her hands and cut off her nose with a pocket knife. This horrific act, only the latest in a series of abuses throughout the couple’s marriage, was reportedly prompted by arguments over Khan’s recent engagement to a six or seven-year-old girl he planned to take as a second wife. Anyone seeing this photo might imagine that Afghanistan is a completely lawless place where men abuse their wives and marry children at will with no fear of consequences. Things were supposed to be different now. In 2009, then-President Hamid Karzai signed legislation that dramatically expanded the list of abuses against women that constitute criminal offenses, and set tough new punishments. So one would think that by now it would be fixed and no longer something to worry about. But that would be completely off. This law, the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW), made assaulting a woman punishable by three to five years in prison. It also made child marriage a crime for the first time, making those responsible for such marriages subject to two to five years’ imprisonment. Under EVAW, Muhammad Khan, who is 25, should have been prosecuted when he married Raiza Gul, then a child under Afghan law. He should have faced the courts and a prison sentence every time he assaulted Raiza Gul. If police in Faryab, Afghanistan had taken action just once, Raiza Gul wouldn’t be looking out from her hospital bed. Why aren't they doing something to help these women? What can we do to place pressure on them?

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