Rights group calls on Afghan govt to free women jailed for ‘running away’

Afghan women in jain

Up to 70 percent of the approximately 700 female prisoners in Afghanistan have been imprisoned for running away

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Government of Afghanistan to take immediate steps to end the unlawful imprisonment of women and girls accused of "running away."

Up to 70 percent of the approximately 700 female prisoners in Afghanistan have been imprisoned for running away, nearly always for fleeing forced marriage or domestic violence, a March 2012 Human Rights Watch report found.

"The public pledges by top Afghan government officials to end wrongful imprisonment of women and girls fleeing abuse sends an important message of equal rights for women," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Now the onus is on President Karzai and his government to promptly free the women and girls who have lost months or years of their lives on these bogus charges."

At a September 16, 2012 meeting, Justice Minister Habibullah Ghalib, Women's Affairs Minister Hassan Banoo Ghazanfar, and Deputy Interior Minister Baz Mohammad Yarmand each strongly condemned wrongful imprisonment of women and girls on charges of "running away."

Ghalib said that police and prosecutors should never send cases of "running away" to the courts. Yarmand pledged his commitment to ending abuses by the police, saying that all police had been instructed that running away is not a crime. Ghazanfar said that women and girls accused of running away are not criminals, but generally crime victims who flee to escape violence committed against them.

Fawzia Koofi, director of the lower house parliamentary committee on women's affairs, and her counterpart, Siddiqa Balkhi, the director of the upper house parliamentary committee on women''s affairs, had joined together in calling for the government to immediately free women and girls charged with running away under Afghanistan's ambiguous and arbitrary "moral crimes" law.

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