KABUL, Afghanistan >> Afghanistan must eliminate widespread traditional customs that harm women and girls, such as child marriage, “honor killings” and giving away girls to settle disputes, a report by the United Nations said Thursday.
The report by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan found religious leaders sometimes reinforced the customs by invoking their interpretation of Islam.
“In most cases, however, these practices are inconsistent with Sharia (Islamic) law as well as Afghan and international law, and violate the human rights of women,” the report said.
Researchers found such practices in varying degrees across the country and among all ethnic groups, based on 150 individual and group interviews this year in 29 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
“Forced marriage is not a harmful tradition in our culture,” a man on the Faryab provincial in northern Afghanistan told researchers. “I know my daughter’s best interests and since she does not leave the house, she does not understand the world and it will not be possible or acceptable for her to choose her own husband.”
The U.N. urged the implementation of the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was enacted in 2009 and which criminalizes actions including buying and selling women for marriage and child marriage.
“The urgent need now is to raise awareness of the EVAW law and ensure its full implementation,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. “The Afghan police and judiciary require far more guidance, support and oversight from national-level authorities on how to properly apply the law.”
She added: “As long as women and girls are subject to practices that harm, degrade and deny them their human rights, little meaningful and sustainable progress for women’s rights can be achieved in Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan, which is mostly rural, has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world at 44 years for both men and women.
The plight of women in Afghanistan gained worldwide attention this year when a young Afghan woman who said her nose and ears were sliced off to punish her for running away from her violent husband appeared on the Aug. 9 cover of Time magazine.
Under orders from a Taliban commander acting as a judge, she was disfigured last year as punishment for fleeing her husband’s home, according to Time’s story in August and other accounts.
Just 18 years old at the time, Aisha said she ran away to escape her in-laws’ beatings and abuse. Her father-in-law was arrested about two weeks ago.