A bruise under the eye or a cut on the body are not the only signs of violence.
Even when crossing a street, a woman is not safe. Men study her appraisingly: Is what she is wearing too short? Does she have a nice body? If a woman laughs aloud at a family party, her father or brother may shoot her a look: Why are you laughing?
These, too, are forms of violence. It keeps Afghan women in isolation, and makes them objects of discrimination in their families and in society.
Women in Afghanistan have no sense of self-worth. This comes from being brought up in an environment where they are constantly humiliated, where they cannot stand up for themselves or make their own decisions. A woman knows that no one will respect her wishes in the family. Out of this come the uglier aspects of violence against women: forced marriage, beatings, rape, forced prostitution, “baad” (the act of giving women and girls as settlement of a debt or a dispute).
Many, if not most families in rural districts marry off their girls at very young ages — far under the legal age of 16. This destroys childhood dreams, subjects girls to a culture of violence, even torture, and ruins the rest of their lives.
Last year the sad incident in Paghman district, where four women were gang-raped, went viral in the media. Even if the criminals were punished, the memory will live the with victims and their families forever.
Another shocking case came in Kandahar, where a group of teens from a juvenile detention center attacked the women’s prison and raped four women prisoners.
In Jowzjan a woman named Sayera, who was eight months pregnant, was raped by gunmen in front of her father and brother. A woman in Herat refused to let her addict husband sell their child, and he tortured her.
We will never forget Farkhunda, who was brutally murdered by a mob in Kabul.
These are just drops in a very sad sea.
Civil society organizations and Afghan women’s groups attended a conference to express their concern, and to ask the Afghan government to take such cases more seriously.
But the National Unity government is not talking about programs regarding woman’s role in politics, economy and society. This is the time to stand up for our rights and to fight for them.
Organizations working for women’s rights have no authority in rural areas; this is very disappointing. There is still no social justice for women.
We now see horrible incidents of violence against women in Iraq and Syria; the shadow of Da’esh (Islamic State) is falling on us as well. The case of Shukria, a nine-year-old girl beheaded along with six others by groups claiming affiliation with Da’esh, reminds us of that.
Afghan women are so vulnerable. We cannot even go outside; a girl or woman on the street is in danger. She cannot take a taxi without fear of being kidnapped. Just last month two motorcycles threw acid at the face of a girl waiting for a taxi in Kabul.
The horrible memories of war are still with us, we do not need them to be repeated. We must raise our voices and demand justice.
We request President Ashraf Ghani to take serious decisions about Afghan women’s role in the government. The Number of Afghan police women, for example, needs to be increased, if we are to have rule of law and justice for women. At every checkpoint we need to have policewomen for checking females.
Negotiations with the Taliban also makes us nervous. Afghan women had bad experiences during their rule. Living under a burqa, seeing the world through its mesh eyeholes, just reinforces the view that women are different, that they cannot be strong.
We need to listen to women. We need the media to reflect their pain. And we need Afghan men to understand, once and for all: Being a woman is not a sin.