Prison for Afghan family who tortured underage bride
The in-laws of a 15-year-old Afghan girl have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after they were found guilty of torturing and abusing her.
Following her arranged marriage, Sahar Gul had been imprisoned in a cellar by her husband and members of his family who ripped out her fingernails, broke her fingers and tortured her with hot irons in an attempt to force her into prostitution.
She was found in December after her uncle tipped off police in the Baghlan province.
Her husband’s father, mother and sister were each sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Kabul. Gul’s husband, a member of the Afghan army and her brother-in-law who are both on the run, were found guilty in their absence.
Gul had called for the death penalty after showing the judge the scars she had received on her scalp, face and neck as a result of her ordeal.
Huma Safi, programme manager for Women for Afghan Women, which works for women’s rights in the country has been caring for the teenager since her rescue, is reported saying that although Gul was happy they had been sent to jail she also feared what would happen when they were released:
“I saw the happiness on her face – but also the fear,” Safi said.
“The fear that in 10 years they will be able to leave jail. Ten years is not a long time. She said: ‘Look how old I am. Ten years will go past very fast’.
Heather Barr, a researcher for Human Rights Watch Afghanistan, described the sentences as “encouraging” because they showed that “at least in this instance, the prosecutors have taken an act of violence against women seriously”.
The case caused anger in Afghanistan where young women belonging to the campaign group Young Women for Change set up an internet cafe in honour of the teenager (see WVoN story).
A member of the group wrote of her sadness that women had been involved in Gul’s torture:
“Many women grow up with unconscious misogynist tendencies. They step on other women’s rights because their rights have been violated by society. They oppress because they have been oppressed. But we shall put an end to this.
“We shall put an end to this vicious circle of violence that is going round and round. It seems never ending, and it will never end if we do not stand together.”
Concerns have been growing that advances made by women in recent years could be bargained away in an attempt to secure peace with the Taliban when the US army leaves.
In March, the country’s religious council issued a controversial statement, apparently with President Kamid Karzai’s backing, that women were “secondary” to men and that husbands could beat wives under certain circumstances (see WVoN story).