Saturday, October 11, 2014

Recognizing Brave Afghan Women on International Day of the Girl

According to an Afghan population survey in 2010, one in five women ages 20-49 were first married at 15.

In 2009, Global Rights established our first legal aid center in Kabul to provide underserviced populations—particularly women—with free legal counsel for family law-related issues.

Since then, we have added three more centers in the provinces of Nangarhar, Herat, and Balkh, providing legal aid to nearly 7,000 Afghans—more than 70 percent of whom have been women.
Many of the women who seek legal advice come to our centers desperate to escape abusive marriages. Too many of these women were forced into arranged marriages at the age of 15, stripping them of the chance to pursue an education and a career. The 2010 Afghanistan Mortality Survey recorded that almost one out of every five women aged 20-49 were first married at age 15.

Global Rights partners with Afghan organizations that run the legal aid centers. On this International Day of the Girl, we wanted to share a couple stories of brave, Afghan women who since adolescence have been trapped in abusive marriages but summoned the courage to find a way out.

Sonita, 19, Herat

Sonita was just 11 years old when her father married her off against her will to a man in a remote village. After Sonita moved in with her husband, her in-laws mistreated her and her husband didn’t want for excuses to beat her. Her new family prevented her from continuing her education and even from seeing her parents. Speaking about how she felt at the time of her marriage, Sonita, now 19, said: “It was not my wish to get married. I wanted to be an educated girl with a bright future. Nobody paid attention to my wishes. Although I was totally against this marriage, I was just 11 and not old enough to raise my voice.”

Sonita kept quiet about her lamentable fate so as not to create hostility between her family and her husband’s family. After three years, however, her father learned how much she was suffering and decided to take her home to her family. She had been living with her family for five years when she heard about Global Rights’ legal aid center in Herat from a neighbor who had participated in a legal awareness program. Still married to her abusive husband, Sonita wanted a divorce so she could move forward with her life. A defense lawyer at the legal aid center explained to Sonita about the process involved to separate from her husband. Afterwards, the lawyer presented her case to the courts, and she was granted divorce from her husband. Sonita has begun a new life and has returned to pursue her education.

Monesa, Mazar-e-Sharif

At 13, Monesa became the property of a man when her father lost her in a bet. The man who won the bet married Monesa and proceeded to beat and taunt her, always reminding her that she was simply a commodity that he had won. She and her abusive husband had a child, whom the husband also beat.

Monesa found out about Global Rights’ legal aid center in Balkh province from her neighbor. A defense lawyer there gave her detailed information about the procedure involved in divorcing her husband and prepared her petition for the primary court in the Sholgara district. In addition, the lawyer prepared a defense statement and responded to official letters of the court. The case was eventually resolved in Monesa’s favor, and she was granted a divorce because of the harm her husband was causing her.

Monesa, Mazar-e-Sharif Monesa returned to live with her father, with whom the defense lawyer reviewed the contents of the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) law. Her father vowed never to force her daughter to marry someone without her consent.

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