Afghan Rape Victim Free to Not Marry Rapist

Karzai presidential pardon represents 10 years of progress.

Afghan officials say the Taliban has been driven from power, but the burqa remains. (Photo: Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

It’s been 10 years since Operation Enduring Freedom drove the oppressive Taliban regime from power in Afghanistan. The Taliban was infamous for brutal enforcement of bans on education for girls and for beating ladies who dared to venture outdoors without the escort of a male family member. But justice has finally arrived for the country’s women:

Gulnaz, a young rape victim, will no longer be required by law to marry her attacker.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a pardon Thursday that Gulnaz’s lawyer, Kimberley Motley, interprets as absolving her client from a previously agreed upon condition to wed her rapist in exchange for release from prison. Gulnaz was initially sentenced to two years imprisonment for “adultery by force.” Upon appeal, the penalty was increased to 12 years.

It’s still unclear where Gulnaz will live upon release and whether family members will pressure her to voluntarily marry her rapist. So go ahead and sign that petition.

Her attacker, a family member, is currently serving seven years for his part in the crime. The couple has a daughter born in Kabul’s Badam Bagh women’s prison, according to The Telegraph, which reported a positive interpretation from attorney Kimberley Motley.

“The judiciary has effectively supported the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act by allowing for her to be released, for allowing for her to be pardoned,” Motley said.

It’s difficult to detect a tone of irony or the stress of coercion in Motley’s statement, but the European Union’s Ambassador and Special Representative to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas (also quoted in The Telegraph), clearly believes more work needs to be done.

“Her case has served to highlight the plight of Afghan women, who 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime often continue to suffer in unimaginable conditions, deprived of even the most basic human rights.”

The United Nations reported last week that Afghan authorities are failing to protect women from murder, beating, rape and being sold into marriage and prostitution.

As part of the campaign to free Gulnaz, her attorney collected more than 6,000 signatures on an online petition. It’s still unclear where Gulnaz will go to live upon release and whether family members will pressure her to voluntarily marry her rapist, securing his release from prison.

So go ahead and sign that petition.

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