Future of women's rights under the spotlight in Afghanistan

Women and girls attend a female engagement meeting by the Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. Three events happening in 2014 could potentially affect women's rights in the country: the presidential elections, peace talks between the government and the Taliban and the drawdown of foreign troops. Photo by: DVIDSHUB / CC BY

When she was only 12 years old, Sahar Gul was forced into an early marriage to a man considerably older than her in Afghanistan. Her new in-laws wanted her to take up prostitution, but when she refused, she was locked in a cellar, beaten, burned. Her nails were ripped off from her fingers.

In late 2011, the girl was rescued and her torturers were sentenced to 10 years in prison — of which they served only one after an appeals court acquitted them in May 2013.

The high-profile case, as many women’s advocacy groups and human rights organizations point out, marked a turning point in the country’s women’s rights agenda, and sent a chilling message: What they all fought so hard to squash in the past 13 years following Taliban rule is happening all over again.

This week, women’s rights — or better said, lack of — in Afghanistan caught worldwide attention when President Hamid Karzai refused to sign into law a criminal procedures bill that could further deteriorate the standing of women in this war-torn nation.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.