EU censors film on Afghan women prisoners
Summary of story from BBC News, November 10, 2011
The European Union (EU) has blocked the release of a documentary it commissioned and paid for itself, on Afghan women who are in jail for so-called “moral crimes”.
Despite strong support from human rights workers who argue the injustice in the Afghan judicial system should be exposed, the EU says it decided to withdraw the film because of “very real concerns for the safety of the women portrayed”.
Half of Afghanistan’s women prisoners are inmates for “zina” or moral crimes. Some of the women convicted of “zina” are guilty of nothing more than running away from forced marriages or violent husbands, and activists say hundreds of those behind bars are victims of domestic violence.
The documentary tells the story of a 19-year-old prisoner called Gulnaz.
After she was raped, she was charged with adultery. Her baby girl, born following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.
Despite an initial sentence of only two years, her jail time was increased to 12 years following an appeal. She may shortly be pardoned, but only because, after months of resisting, she has agreed to marry her rapist.
Stories like hers are tragically typical, according to Heather Barr, of Human Rights Watch, who is carrying out research among Afghan female prisoners.
“It would be reassuring to think that the stories told in this film represent aberrations or extreme case,” she says. “Unfortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“It’s very important that people understand that there are these horrific stories that are happening now – 10 years after the fall of the Taliban government, 10 years after what was supposed to be a new dawn for Afghan women.”
A statement from the EU’s Kabul delegation said the welfare of the women was the paramount consideration in its decision not to release the film.