Taliban Send Victims of Domestic Violence to Prison

washington — For 27-year-old Leeda, “life is like hell” as her husband beats her every day and she “has to tolerate it” because she has “no other option.”

“My body is always bruised, now I am used to it, I have to tolerate it for my children,” Leeda, a mother of three who lives in the western city of Herat, told VOA with tears in her eyes.

But Leeda, who did not want her real name to be revealed for fear of reprisals, said that she has “nowhere to go” as her parents and siblings are not in Afghanistan and there is no organization in Herat she can turn to for help.

“In the past in Herat, women-operated offices used to help women like me, but those offices no longer exist,” Leeda said, adding that “if I go to the Taliban for help, they will imprison me. They listen to men, not women. What will I do with my children if I go to jail?”

A United Nations report released in December said the Taliban are sending to prison women who complain to them about gender-based violence and do not have male relatives to stay with.

“The confinement of women in prison facilities, outside the enforcement of criminal law, and for the purpose of ensuring their protection from gender-based-violence, would amount to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” stated the U.N. report.

The report added that the imprisonment of vulnerable women would have “a negative impact on their mental and physical health.”

The report, covering the period from August 2021 to March 2023, said that gender-based violence against women in Afghanistan includes murder, honor killings, sexual assault, injury and disability, and deprivation of women from receiving inheritances.

The Taliban told the U.N. that the handling of the cases of violence against women is “based on Sharia law and there is no injustice committed against women.”

After seizing power in 2021, the Taliban closed all the women’s protection centers in Afghanistan where female survivors of family violence would take refuge.

Even before the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan had one of the highest rates of violence against women, with nine in 10 women experiencing some sort of intimate-partner violence in their lifetimes.

Though the support system was not without shortcomings, female survivors of gender-based violence had access to “pro bono legal representation, medical treatment and psychological support,” Amnesty International stated in a 2021 report.

“The system was imperfect, but activists had fought hard for it, and it was gradually improving. One of the first things the Taliban did after seizing power was to destroy this system completely,” said Heather Barr, associate director at Human Rights Watch.

Barr said that the Taliban’s return brought about “the worst women’s rights crisis” in the world.

Under the Taliban, women in Afghanistan are banned from secondary and university education, working with government and nongovernment organizations, and traveling long distances without a male relative. They are also barred from going to gyms and public parks.

Samira Hamidi, a regional campaigner for Amnesty International, told VOA that dismantling the institutions, such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, created “a huge gap” in the ability to monitor the women’s rights situation in Afghanistan, especially that of survivors of domestic violence.

“The Taliban’s measure to accommodate women survivors of domestic violence in prisons instead of safe houses and accommodations is a blatant violation of human rights, especially the right to freedom of movement and life,” said Hamidi.

She added that the Taliban “have no intention to protect women” who face gender-based violence.

With the Taliban’s continued crackdown on women’s rights in Afghanistan, female victims of gender-based violence, like Leeda, live in fear.

“I fear the Taliban,” Leeda said. “If I complain against my husband to anyone, my husband will send the Taliban after me.”

Roshan Noorzai of VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report, which originated in VOA’s Afghan Service.

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