Hauntingly, a number of these child brides share Gul’s fate: they become prostitutes or suffer at the hands of displeased relatives.
“In Afghanistan, there are many forced and early marriages where women will be sold by their families and they will work as prostitutes,” Noori said. “This arrangement restricts women’s options even further, as they are often not accepted back by their families because of the shame.”
But despite the widespread abuse of Afghan women’s rights, the tide has slowly been turning. Police in Afghanistan have arrested Gul’s in-laws and issued a warrant for her husband, all of whom have been struck with abuse charges. Meanwhile, a commission set up by President Karzai has been tasked with launching an investigation into Gul’s abuse.
Outrage from the public sphere has also resulted in coverage by prominent media outlets. In response to Gul’s tale of atrocious abuse, the Afghanistan Times ran an editorial titled “Let’s Break the Dead Silence on Women’s Plight.”
Noori said that these steps “are encouraging, and show attitudes within the country are slowly changing and many are ready to address these types of abuse.”
“This is a critical time for the women of Afghanistan,” she continued. “Women are still victims of domestic violence and denied basic rights. Many Afghan women live without access to health care, or access to economic or legal power. Although these challenges seem daunting, they are not insurmountable. Through my work with Women for Women International, I have had an opportunity to see the untold stories of hope, advocacy, empowerment, and women-led change. Afghan women are not passive, helpless victims. The women we serve in Afghanistan are defending their hard-won freedoms, sending their children to school, running thriving businesses and standing up for peace in their communities.”
Gul will be treated for her extensive injuries in India, but is expected to provide authorities with more information once she has made a recovery.
Though we can’t turn back the clock and prevent the torture of this defenseless child, there are steps we can all take to ensure that women in Afghanistan can better protect themselves.
“They can show Afghan women that there is someone in the world who cares about them and is looking out for their future,” Noori explained. “Since opening our doors in 2002, WfWI-Afghanistan has served over 87,000 women and distributed more than $23 million in direct aid and microfinance assistance. Currently, more than 5,500 women are participating in our year-long sponsorship program where they are receiving training in vocational skills, business management and rights awareness. By becoming a Women for Women International sponsor, you can build a connection with a woman survivor of war in Afghanistan.”
For more information about the program, visit Women for Women International’s Get Involved page.
Diana Denza is a regular contributor to BettyConfidential.