AFGHANISTAN. Herat: In 2020, Afsana, a 20-year-old girl was shot dead by her cousins and her brother after she opposed marrying her cousin. She had fled her home in the Ghorian district of Herat to marry the man she loved. According to Herat Women’s Affairs, a year after Afsana fled and married her love, her family invited her to come back for seeing her. But when she came back to Ghorian, the family members killed her. Some of the conservative families in Afghanistan see fleeing from home as a big disrespect.
Herat, a traditional and conservative city in northwestern Afghanistan records the highest number of violence cases against women every year. Despite the efforts taken both by legal institutions and women’s rights activities, the number jumps higher and doesn’t drop to any significant rate annually.
The traditional society of Afghanistan has its norms that curb women’s access to any legal procedure to defend their solitary decisions that contradict family choice.
“With the present system and principle Afghan government put in place, still people do not trust the judicial and justice organs of the government,” said Anisa Sarawari, Director of Herat Women’s Affairs Department.
In an interview with Afghanistan Women’s News Agency, Mrs. Sarwari said “fleeing from home” is not recorded as violence against women in recent years.
A bill issued by the presidential palace two years ago, made fleeing from home a non-criminal act. Fleeing from home has lost its ‘crime aspect’ in the past years. In Afghanistan, if a minor girl elopes with an adult man then it is considered as ‘Rape’. The bill added that the case will be recorded under ‘deceiving women’. On the other hand, if an adult woman flees from her home then the case is termed as an ‘adultery’ case.
“In Afghanistan or Herat, when a woman flees home, she brings a very bad dishonor to the family and her entire relatives which cause the family to lose their reputations in public and force them to act furiously,” Asna (in Afghanistan people used to go by their first name), a woman activist said. “I believe, violence against women and force’s marriages force women to flee their homes,” she said.
Herat Women’s Affairs department said that if the women flee home alone, it is not a crime, and she will be transferred to a safe house. But when she runs away with a non-family member or with someone else, the case comes to be a bit different.
The legal system fails, while traditional views dominate
“Unfortunately, people still do not believe in the judicial system and long processes besides the financial pressure required by the government encourage the families to refer to the anti-government groups for solving the case,” Sarwari said.
“The level of violence in cases in which women fled their homes elevates as we move to remote areas where people do not access the primary education and illiteracy intensifies the level of violence,” Asna said.
“In rural areas, people will immediately kill their daughters and sons if they happen to witness such cases ever which are jeopardize their reputation and Afghani honor,” she added.
Meanwhile, in the urban areas of Afghanistan like Herat, where education is widely available than other remote areas and impoverished provinces, people less frequently refer to the judicial system to resolve “women-fleeing-home”. Instead, they try to solve them on their own. Herat Women’s Affairs Department said that it plans to build up agencies in rural areas to record the cases and provide families with solutions.
Meanwhile, the office said the number of violent cases is not real and can not represent the whole cases of violence against women in the province. “We predict the cases to be even higher than what had been recorded. The reason for that lies in the factor that insecurity does not let the government record cases there,” they added.