London: More than 400 women and teenage
girls are currently languishing in jails across Afghanistan for "moral crimes", a new research has claimed.
The research by Human Rights Watch found female inmates are being held for "immorality", including running away from
home to escape beatings or forced marriage or violent husbands
and parents in-law, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
Virtually all teenage girls held in prison are accused of
immorality, either extramarital sex or running away; In fact,
in some cases, women had been charged with having extramarital
sex after being raped or forced into prostitution, according
to the research.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch,
said: "It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the
Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away
from domestic violence or forced marriage.
"No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous
situation even if it`s at home. President (Hamid) Karzai and
Afghanistan`s allies should act decisively to end this abusive
and discriminatory practice."
Running away is not an offence under the Afghan penal
code, but the Supreme Court said in 2010 that women and girls
who flee their homes and don`t immediately go to the police
or a close relative should be locked up as precaution against
prostitution and promiscuity.
The court has declined to comment on the report.
The United Nations has estimated around three quarters
of marriages in Afghanistan are forced and unmarried girls
are also sometimes given, or exchanged, to resolve disputes
or stand in place of a dowry.
Few women are able to gain divorces. If they run away
instead, the husband`s family often press for a conviction of
extramarital sex as well, as an extra punishment, the research
by the rights group, headquartered in New York, has claimed.
"Even the most horrific abuses suffered by women seem
to elicit nothing more than a shrug from prosecutors, despite
laws criminalising violence against women," Roth said.