Friday, 16 December 2011

Women's Rights - a long way to go.

During the reign of the Taliban, women were not classed as second class citizens. They were actually non-citizens. They had no rights at all. They were not allowed to work, even if that meant they would starve, not allowed an education, not even allowed out unless escorted by a man.

Since the fall of that most intolerant of regimes ten years ago, the new authorities in Afghanistan have made great effort to make theirs a more equal society. Girls now go to school, and even University, women have careers and are seen in the media, there are even women representatives in the Government.

But that doesn’t mean the struggle for equality is anywhere near won.

This fact was highlighted when the world’s media highlighted the case of Gulnaz, an Afghan woman who was jailed for twelve years for “Adultery by force”, that is, for being raped.

Rape is a heinous crime. It is a crime of violence committed by inadequate men who don’t have the ability to control themselves and behave like human beings.

It is NEVER the victim’s fault, and any society that attaches responsibility for the attack to the injured party has no reason to feel proud of itself.

Following international attention, Gulnaz was freed and given a presidential pardon. In itself, this was an insult, implying as it does that she had done anything for which she needed to be pardoned. She is now also under pressure to marry her attacker, making his actions legal and acceptable. This will, she is told, restore her honour, and help make peace between his family and hers.

How many of us would find this suggestion tolerable?

Gulnaz is not the only woman to be in this predicament in Afghanistan. Her imprisonment was ended because of the international publicity she received. Many other women languish behind bars, unseen and unremarked, their only crime to have caught the eye of an aggressor. They all deserve their reputations restored and their blamelessness acknowledged.
Until all these women are free, surely all of us are imprisoned.

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