'Moral crimes' being used to persecute Afghan women

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The Independent Online

For Afghan women, the act of fleeing domestic abuse, forced prostitution or even being stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver by an abusive husband may land them in jail while their abusers walk free, says a new report by Human Rights Watch.

Running away is considered a "moral crime" for women while some rape victims are also imprisoned, because sex outside marriage – even when the woman is forced – is considered adultery, another "moral crime".

Despite progress in women's rights and freedom since the fall of the Taliban a decade ago, women throughout the country are at risk of abduction, rape, forced marriage and being traded as commodities, warned the repor. It can be hard for women to escape violence at home because of huge social pressure and legal risks to stay in marriages. "The treatment of women and girls accused of 'moral crimes' is a black eye on the face of the post-Taliban Afghan government and its international backers, all of whom promised that respect for women's rights would distinguish the new government from the Taliban," the New York-based organisation said.

"This situation has been further undermined by President Hamid Karzai's frequently changing position on women's rights. Unwilling or unable to take a consistent line against conservative forces within the country, he has often made compromises that have negatively impacted women's rights."

The rights group said about 400 Afghan women and girls were being held for "moral crimes" and they rarely found support from authorities in a "dysfunctional criminal justice system".

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