Target: President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan
Goal: Take urgent action against child marriages and domestic violence
Since the signing of the law that made violence against women illegal in 2009, the Afghan president has provided vital protection for both women and girls. For the last year in office, President Karzai should ensure that all enforcement agencies tackle this monumental problem with vigor.
This Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women implements tough penalties for those that abuse women and girls, whether they are in a consensual marriage or a forced one. Unfortunately, this piece of legislation does not make it illegal for any child to get married before they are eighteen years old, although human rights activists are currently pushing for this to happen in Afghanistan. The reason for this push is due to the popularity of child marriages in Afghanistan. Girls as young as sixteen are married and a year later are giving birth, but giving birth at such a young age can lead to a risk of injury and sometimes death. According to Human Rights Watch, in Afghanistan a woman dies every two hours due to pregnancy. Another consequence of pregnancy at a young age is a severe medical issue called fistula. Fistula is a preventable injury that happens when the woman is in prolonged labor, creating a hole in her birth canal. Because of the nature of the injury, the woman will leak urine or feces. If the condition isn’t treated, it can lead to other serious medical problems and cause death. Government statistics show that twenty-five percent of women and girls who were married under the age of sixteen were diagnosed with fistula and seventeen percent were under sixteen when they gave birth.
It is important that President Karzai tackles both domestic abuse and child marriages/pregnancies because of the toll it takes on the economy and society. If these girls wait several years into adulthood before having babies, their health risk decreases significantly. This would mean that the woman and her family would have a smaller medical bill and fret less about their health or economic condition. Domestic violence in Afghanistan is distressingly high, as a 2006 report from Global Rights stated that eighty-five percent of Afghan women had suffered physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. The problem has grown at such an alarming rate that many women and girls commit suicide by lighting themselves on fire, and it is believed that the violence and stress is linked to childhood marriages and domestic abuse.
Afghanistan has been slow to adopt policies that protect their women, but now that the law is made, it is crucial that government officials ensure that women and girls are protected. Even though President Karzai leaves office next year, he can leave a lasting legacy by guaranteeing that those who abuse women are punished to the full extent of the law. If you believe that the president should heavily enforce this during his last term, sign the petition below.
Dear President Karzai,
First I would like to thank you for signing the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. By doing this you are announcing to the women and girls of your country that the government is protecting them against future harm. You are showing compassion on their behalf and ensuring that they will have happier and healthier lives. I am writing this letter to urge you to fully enforce this law during your last term of presidency. I am asking that you make this your lasting legacy as a president; that even though it is your last year you will punish those who abuse women, or force marriages onto young girls.
Domestic violence is still a problem in your nation and I hope that this will no longer be the case. I hope that both the men and women in a marriage love each other and view each other as equals, that they will never resort to violence to fix problems, or use their spouse as an outlet for their anger. I hope that you continue to prosecute those that harm women – whether it be physically, psychologically, or sexually – because by doing this you are helping your society. I also hope that you will continue to influence other members in the government with this same ideal.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Christina Lamb via RAWA