|"The case of Bibi Aisha, who was mutilated by her husband, is a typical of abuse against Afghan women, says the United Nations." (Time/Getty)|
By Jon Boone
The Guardian, December 9, 2010
"Bibi Aisha, the Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, was a 'lucky victim' because she survived her attack and got help, a top human rights official in the country said yesterday. While Aisha escaped her abusive family, the deputy chairman of the country's Independent Human Rights Commission said that many women in similar circumstances were less lucky. 'For sure, we have hundreds of Bibi Aishas in Afghanistan,' said Ahmad Fahim Hakim. His remarks came after the news that one of the men responsible for attacking Aisha had been arrested, a development hailed by human rights workers as a sign the Afghan authorities are starting to take deep-rooted abuse of women seriously. Hakim was speaking during the publication of a major UN report that showed that, despite improvements in women's rights -- long touted as a major goal of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan -- the country is still blighted by forced marriages, the giving away of infant girls to future husbands to settle disputes, honour killings and desperate women resorting to death by self-immolation.
The report by the UN's Afghanistan mission said that such practices are problem in all communities and cause 'suffering, humiliation and marginalisation for millions of Afghan women and girls.' Despite recent efforts to toughen laws designed to protect women, the government does little to combat abuses. For example, the law on elimination of violence against women, which was regarded by rights activists as a major step forward when it came into effect in August last year, is not being enforced in many rural areas, where officials have not even heard of it, the report said. One long-observed tradition covered by the report is the concept of baad, where a young girl will be given in marriage to settle disputes between families. 'Many of the women told us that, instead of the murderer being punished, an innocent girl is punished and has to spend her life in slavery and subject to cruel violence,' said Georgette Gagnon, the UN's director of human rights in Kabul. The head of Afghanistan's only specialist burns unit is quoted saying that forced marriages are the main cause of women who try to kill themselves by setting themselves on fire. According to figures quoted in the report, in 57% of Afghan marriages one of the partners is younger than 16."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]