The following is a letter written by a development worker currently posted to Afghanistan. Ceasefire.ca was sent this letter and has chosen to post it to share with our supporters an in depth look at the challenges faced by women in Afghanistan.
The woman discussed in this letter is university-educated and holds an important position with a local NGO, proving that it is not just those who are less fortunate and uneducated that are suffering from Afghanistan’s atrocious legal system. These human rights abuses transcend age, education, economic and religious status.
I am writing you because of your knowledge of the NGO and Afghan community – and hopefully to tap into your resources about those working with the legal protection issues of women who could assist my friend who’s situation is described below.
I have an Afghan female friend here who is facing serious difficulties. She is well educated and successful in her job. However, her husband has been having an (illegal) affair and has now decided he wants to take a divorce from her and marry the other woman. She has many children, who according to her knowledge of Afghan law, will become his property and move with their father to the household with the new wife (as well as his taking of the money and all property that she earned through her well-paying job). He is not interested in leaving the children behind or taking 2 wives.
As you can imagine, she is distraught at the thought of being separated from her children, who will likely go to a mother who is not interested in their well-being either. She has talked to the police and they said it is his legal right to have many wives and were not concerned about her situation. While he has been having an illegal affair, he has now announced his intention to marry this other woman, thus (apparently?) even if he was caught with proof now of having the affair, his intention to marry would let him free from any charges being held. He also has beaten her when he’s become angry with her actions or intentions to try to keep the children or prevent their divorce.
Obviously, this is a complicated and sensitive situation and the laws here in Afghanistan are not ones which favour women or that I understand very clearly. We talked through the different options I could think of, but all came up short of letting her be with her children.
I am emailing you now with the hope that you can pass me on the name of any NGO working in women’s legal/custody advice or protection or any private legal advice she could seek. She is from a town a few hours from Kabul, so even an NGO working in KBL could be helpful.
As the war in Afghanistan rages on we are once again reminded that there is more to fight for than military gain and more to invest in than warheads and strategic tactics.
Afghanistan’s future rests on the international communities ability to assist Afghans in transforming the socio/legal fabric that supports legislation that allows women to be taken advantage of and treated like second class citizens.