It is very surprising that even after the ouster of Taliban a decade ago, women in Afghanistan still continue to battle archaic mindsets and lack of freedom to exercise their choice. Kabul prison for women is currently home to 202 women and 62 children that live with their imprisoned mothers. All the women housed here are being imprisoned for “moral” crimes.
After Taliban was ousted 12 years ago, some big steps were taken to promote women’s education and in getting them back to the mainstream of Afghan economy. Women in Afghanistan could go out without a full veil. They could go out and work with male colleagues and also travel without male escorts. Some of them even got elected to the Parliament. It looked like the dark period in the lives of women in Afghanistan was over. But, sadly that is not the case. Mindset changes in a conservative society are hard to happen so easily. Even though Afghanistan recently passed Elimination of Violence Against Women law; its implementation is not stringent. And of late, President Karzai seems to be softening his approach towards Taliban, as he wishes to engage them in preparation for the period after NATO troop’s departure from Afghanistan. This can spell some anxious times for women. As it is, it has emboldened the hardliners to openly warn and threaten women against venturing out for education or work.
Yet today, we find that judges regularly pass imprisonment rulings against women for moral crimes. Women who refuse to marry as per their parents’ wishes and run away from home; those who rebel against beating and torture of their husbands or run away are often labeled “adulterous” and imprisoned. Some of these women get raped by some close relative. Many of the women are pregnant or imprisoned along with their young kids.
Human rights groups allege that the policies and laws are only on paper, and women are hardly encouraged to speak up against injustice. Most of the cases of crimes against women are never reported. In the tribal culture, it is still routine to issue diktats about the conduct of women and even rulings that offer girls and women in exchange of debts or to resolve disputes.
It will take a long time for justice to come to these hapless women in the prison of Kabul. Orthodox society will continue to push many more women as “moral” criminals into prison.