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Violence against Women

Social History and status of Women in Afghanistan

3.12 Violence against Women


deliver baby girls provide their husbands with a good excuse to marry another woman (Khinjani 2012: 27).


The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has said that worsening insecurity in large swaths of the country, a growing culture of criminal impunity, weak law enforcement institutions, poverty and many other factors have contributed to increasing violence against women, including rape, torture and forced marriages (aihrc.org.af).

Forced marriages are often financial transactions ―whereby a family is able to repay its debt or resolve immediate economic hardship by contracting an engagement for their daughter‖ (afghanistan.unifem.org).

According to the (2008 Violence against Women Primary Database Report from UNIFEM, in Afghanistan): Women and girls are mostly abused by people close to them; i.e. family members (father, mother, brother(s), life partners (husband, fiancée, ex-husband and/or boyfriend), step family members, in-laws and other relatives). This group amounts to 92% of the reported cases of abuse, when the women or girls seek recourse from the government they are further molested by the government representatives, this repeated victimization demonstrates the tremendous risk that women face if they dare to complain about violence at home. Their situation can also worsen if the officials or elders from whom they seek help refuse to protect the girls and women and return them to the same situation. Both the qualitative and quantitative data support information about forced and early marriage or engagement as a prominent element of violence against women (afghanistan.unifem.org).

Other such transactions, while not financial in nature, are still ―compensatory to make amends for either a failed marriage transaction between the families where the initial marriage portion cannot be repaid or for a crime committed by a member of the girl/woman‘s family, also known as Ba‘ad.

Consequently, all the societies are suffusing directly and indirectly from violence and aggression which are seen mostly in developing countries. Lack of equipment and facilities to the necessaries services, men deserving, poverty, low level of literacy, low level of health care, high rate of mortalities, political Instability, fragile governance are the reasons that hinder women from having convenient lives and to participate actively with equal opportunities in the process of social and economic development.

94 3.12.1 Physical Violence

The table below gives a clear idea about the predominant violence against women is physical violence. According to Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)‘s research, during 2012, 88914 instances of physical violence had been reported (See Appendix, Table 2, page No 261).

In addition, women were also heavily affected by the ongoing armed conflict.

Many women and children had lost their lives in suicide attacks, explosions of roadside bombs and air strikes. A recent AIHRC report states that 150 women and 821 children were seriously injured or killed by pro- and anti-governmental forces in the first 6 months of the current year (Hasrat & Pfefferle 2012: 14).

3.12.2 Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a common but socially and culturally hidden form of violence against women. Though talking about and enlarging upon sexual violence is a taboo in Afghanistan traditional society, the table given in appendix shows that there had been an increase in the reported cases of sexual violence in 2012 by AIHRC (See Appendix, Table 3, page No 262).

It is very obvious that rape victims face new hardships, not just from the direct physical injuries sustained but also from the psychological impact which is increased by the risk of being infected by HIV/AIDS or having an unwanted pregnancy. The stigma attached to rape threatens women who speak out about the abuses to be abandoned by their husbands, ostracized by the community, left with no economic assets or income and puts her at risk of further human rights violations and deteriorated health.

Enforced silence is one of the main answers that people get when looking for victims of sexual violence and rape as this are connected with the idea of honor which is one of the important foundational values of South Asian and West Asian societies.

In such cases, the idea of the victim and her plight are thought to be kept under the carpet as it would bring a bad name to the family. It is this aspect of tradition that has prevented the government from undertaking any large-scale program to stop sexual violence. Therefore sexual violence is also not about sex only but about power and honor combined in the body of the person.


As a result, rape is shrouded in social taboos that help maintain a conspiracy of silence, and by extension, inaction, that perpetuates and exacerbates the problem.

Consequently, sexual violence is under-reported in Afghanistan, However, available information points to a widespread phenomenon. It affects all communities and all segments of the population (Human Rights report 2009: 21).

3.12.3 Verbal and Psychological Violence

A common type of violence, that is rarely recognized as such, is verbal and psychological violence. Insulting and threatening, however, can seriously affect women‘s personality and psychology and have drastic consequence in their personal and social life. Humiliating and degrading behaviors against women occur in all spheres of society, inside the family as well as in public spaces, and puts women in a dangerous subjected position.

From the table below, we get many instances of women committing abuse to their own bodies and also taking the extreme step of even itself immolation as a means of approaching violence meted out to them. This not only includes physical violence but other forms of psychological and mental violence that has done much damage to the self of the women, 808 instances have been reported by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) during 2012 (See Appendix, Table 4, page No 263).

3.12.4 Economic Violence

The data collected by AHIRC during the first 6 months of 2012 in the below table counts a total of 715 registered cases. In many cases, if women demand their rights, men resort to force and violence (See Appendix, Table 5, page No 264).

3.12.5 Other Instances of Violence

Violence against women is not limited to the aforementioned boundaries, but there are other forms and types of violence imposed on women. 661 instances have been registered during the period of investigation at 2012 by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AHIRC) (See Appendix, Table 6, page No 265). Due to the widespread occurrence of these types of violence against women in the society, there is less social and cultural reaction against them. These types of violence are


often considered ordinary or normal and are accepted as common practices (Hasrat &

Pfefferle 2012: 20).

As the data presented show, forced and early marriage, expulsion from home or receiving high dowries occur frequently in Afghanistan and are rarely considered as violence against women. In reality, however, these practices have far-reaching negative impacts on women‘s life, personality health, social and economic conditions.

Early marriages, for example, have devastating physical and psychological impacts on young girls. Harmful traditional practices and customs are the main reasons for the continuation of these forms of violence (Hasrat & Pfefferle 2012: 21).

3.12.6 Perpetrators and Place of Violence

The findings and information collected by regional and provincial offices of the AIHCR clearly show that acts of violence takes place almost exclusively within the victim‘s own family, making 90% of all reported cases. Against general opinion, the findings of this report show that those family members who are the closest to the victim are the main perpetrators of violence (Hasrat & Pfefferle 2012:22).

On the long list with perpetrators, the victims‘ husbands take the first place with 2329 reported cases, followed by father (182), parent (152), fiancé (114), brother (98), brother in law (92), mother (49), sister in law (husband‘s sister) (35), victim‘s sons (31), paternal uncle (23), maternal uncle (17), sister (12), teacher (8) and others. In other words, the victims‘ husbands commit 70.1% of all violent acts. This appalling figure reveals a bitter reality of domestic violence that often remains in the dark of family structures (Hasrat & Pfefferle 2012:22).

Besides close family members, other people have perpetrated violence against women. This group encompasses unidentified people in the streets and other public places, taxi and bus drivers, people at work, teachers, clergy and other people that are not part of the victim‘s family (Hasrat & Pfefferle 2012: 23).