Afghanistan: Shelters Saving Women from Abusive Marriages
Friday, March 13, 2009 4:26 PM

In an article published 2 March 2009, the New York Times said that although domestic violence remains a problem in Afghanistan, things have improved for women since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. The new Constitution enshrines some women’s rights and the new government contains a Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA). Beginning in 2003, four international women’s rights groups began building shelters for women and girls fleeing abusive marriages and families. Three of these organizations are:  Women for Afghan Women (WAW), Afghan Women Skills Development Center (AWSDC) and Medica Mondiale.

Before they had shelters to escape to, women and girls suffering from domestic violence had nowhere to turn. Under religious and tribal traditions, a wife is considered the property of her husband. If she went to the police, she was jailed or returned to her husband. If outsiders became involved, the woman and her husband went through mediation or counseling, but women’s rights advocates argue that they usually favored the husband. Even if she went to her own relatives for help, they usually returned her to her husband because the family’s honor was at stake. Without any hope of escaping their situations, victims remained silent about their abuse and many attempted suicide.

Now, however, there are the shelters. Although the focus is still on maintaining the marriage if possible, shelters also have legal advocates to help victims file for divorce in family court when the family situation has deteriorated to the point that the marriage cannot be saved. If the abuse warrants it, they may also file charges against the husband or relatives in criminal court. Women’s advocates say the Afghani government is recognizing these problems, too, because courts are fairer to women and girls, and the national police created a special family unit.

For the full text of this article, please click here.

Compiled from: Kirk Semple, New York Times, Afghan Women Slowly Gaining Protection from Abuse (2 March 2009).