It’s wild how things go down in the Middle East:
“I am obliged to marry him, even though I can’t look at him,” 19-year-old Gulnaz said about the man she claims raped her. Gulnaz, who uses one name, has been in an Afghan prison cell for almost two years. She says she only has one choice if she wants to bring dignity back to her family and tribe: She must marry the man who forced his way into her home, tied her up, and then raped her. The man was Gulnaz’s cousin’s husband, and the humiliation continued a few months after the attack, when Gulnaz finally got the courage to tell Afghan police what had happened. Instead of getting justice, she was accused of adultery and sent to prison.
“I do not know why they put me in jail,” Gulnaz said when NBC News recently visited her at the women’s prison in Kabul. Her 9-month-old daughter, Moskan, a result of the rape, lay sleeping on a bed nearby – she was born on the floor of Gulnaz’s prison cell. According to Gulnaz, she was initially given a two-year prison sentence, so she appealed. The court of appeals refused to accept her accusation of rape, she said, and raised her sentence to 12 years. They didn’t believe she was raped because they told her that a woman couldn’t get pregnant after her first sexual encounter, so therefore she must have had a consensual sexual relationship with her accuser, they told her.
Out of the approximately 600 adult female prisoners in Afghanistan, more than half are in a similar predicament as Gulnaz, Barr said, meaning they have been charged with a “moral crime.” So-called moral crimes are crimes that are not codified in Afghan law, but they are covered in the constitution as a crime against culture and religion. That includes everything from adultery to even running away from home.
“Not only are there hundreds of these cases, but these cases send a message to all Afghan women who are facing forced marriage, or abuse in the home, or sexual assault that there isn’t any help available to them and the consequences of seeking help are likely to be further victimization,” Barr said.
In the meantime, Gulnaz is counting down the days until her release – which is expected to be soon.