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Why are we paying such a high price just because we are girls or women?

Wazhma Frogh
November 5, 2004

As the world witnesses Afghanistan stepping into development and rehabilitation phase, experience has revealed that no country can ever develop without a sound base to protect human rights.

Afghans are suffering from a very harsh situation and human values are worthless in many parts of the region.

I am a researcher on women issues in Afghanistan and I travel frequently to different parts of the region to find out the living circumstances of women.

Some three months ago I visited a province in the south east of the country and observed the situation of women and children. I witnessed that their rights have been massacred entirely under the shadow of ignorance of those who call themselves Muslims.

In this province, 9 out of 10 families have sold their daughters at a value equivalent to $300. I was shocked when I saw the girls 3 and 6 years of age getting married and being sold. When the fathers were asked about the cause, they said it was all due to a bad economy.

Also many believed that Islam says daughters should not be kept at home. They believed that the security and stability of the country is a question for all the inhabitants. That is daughters were sold: to avoid "problems and burdens in future". Many fathers said a woman has no value and if a daughter can fetch $300, it is the best opportunity to earn an income.

Selling girls and early marriages are very common in many different regions of the country, especially the southern and eastern parts.

When the women were asked why they give birth to so many children they can't afford to feed, they all responded that these are forced deliveries; if a wife refuses to bear more children, the husband sells his daughter and gets another married.

While talking to newly wed children, I was very disappointed by their innocence and simplicity. An 8-year-old girl said, "Last night my mother told me that I am engaged to the village preacher, who has already got three wives and his eldest son is 21-years old."

Human rights, particularly the rights of women and children, is a question for the whole nation. Why are we paying such a high price just because we are girls or women? Many of us believe that Islam has put these rules on women and our religion says we are inferior to men. These ideas are rooted in ignorance.

Women and children's rights need to be addressed to a very large extent. Speeches at public places won't change the current circumstances unless strong action is taken in terms of public awareness. Islamic sharia and jurisprudence need to be clarified for people in many far and remote areas of the country.

The independent human rights commission ought to take measurable actions to prevent these violations throughout the country. The central government also has the responsibility to broaden its context and run programs which will help awareness about what Islam is really about.

The literacy rate is very low in the country and when a preacher preaches for his own benefit, a man who cannot read or write will believe him that this is the real religion and then applies all those self-made rules at his home. As a result all the weak members of the family become victims of his ignorance.

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Wazhma Frogh




Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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