The Sad Reality For Rape Victims in Afghanistan

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Image Credit: AFP / Shah Marai

Rape, sexual assault involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration against a person without that person’s consent, is a significant concern in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of a number of nations where women not only have few human rights but also find themselves living under oppressive laws.

Millions of Afghan women have to deal the Shia Family Law. This law takes away women’s rights within a marriage and specifies that Shia women must submit to their husband’s demands. Article 132 of the Shia Family Law, which applies to about six million Shia Afghans, even stipulates that a wife must have sex with her husband at least once every four days except in the case of illness. This has been criticized as condoning marital rape, among other human rights violations against women (1).

In one case of a rape that was reported, in which an Afghan woman was raped by several men, the woman has been deemed dishonorable, “Unfortunately,” explains Noorjahan Akbar on this particular case, “rape happens everywhere, but what is particular about Afghanistan, and a few other countries, is that the vast majority of times, the raped, and not the rapist, is punished” (2). Thus, although a rapist can be legally prosecuted in Afghanistan it remains largely under reported.

In another case, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai pardoned a 19-year-old Afghan woman who was imprisoned for adultery after being raped by a relative (3). In Afghanistan a rape victim can be charged with adultery, a crime punishable by death. Other victims of rape often find themselves imprisoned. For example, Badem Bagh, a women’s prison in Kabul, has inmates who are there for being the victims of rape and assault (4). Women have also been imprisoned for refusing to marry, and for running away from their husbands. Moreover, a U.N. report has highlighted the plight women face in the country, and has also noticed an increase in rape against young girls as young as the age of seven (5). According to the report violence against women comes in the form of rape, “honour killings,” early and forced marriages, sexual abuse and slavery.

Afghan soil runs red with the honour killings of rape victims. An honour killing is the murder of a person accused of “bringing shame” upon their family (6), “Honour killings in rape cases are common in Afghanistan, and are often more important to the victim’s family than vengeance against the attacker. Human rights groups say about 150 honour killings a year come to light, and many more probably go unreported” (7). The honour killing of rape victims have also been reported in Pakistan and Syria, among other Islamic countries. But what is the motivation behind these honour killings? According to Akbar, “In Afghanistan when a woman is raped, rarely does a man agree to marry her because a woman is respected for her virginity and regardless of how her hymen is broken, she must be punished. In addition to that, if a woman who is raped become pregnant, it is likely that she will have to marry the man who savagely disrespected her soul and body. That is if she is lucky and not imprisoned by the government for “adultery” or has not committed suicide already… Once she is raped her family has lost honor, too” (8).


1. Starkey, J. 2009. Afghan leader accused of bid to ‘legalise rape.’ Available.

2. Akbar, N. 2013. No Justice for Rape Victims in Afghanistan. Available.

3. NPR. 2011. For Afghan Women, Rape Law Offers Little Protection. Available.

4. NPR. 2011. Ibid.

5. CNN. 2009. Report: More young girls face rape in Afghanistan. Available.

6. BBC. 2014. Honour crimes. Available.

7. HBVA. Rape Victims Face Honor Killings. Available.

8. Akbar, N. 2013.

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