Rape victim urged to marry attacker to stop her being attacked again
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December 2, 2011 - 6:42AM
The Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the release of a woman who was jailed for adultery after being raped - but she now faces having to marry her attacker.
The move came after some 5000 people signed a petition for the release of the woman, named Gulnaz, who has served two years in prison after a relative raped her at her home.
She has been raising the child she had by her attacker in a prison cell in Kabul.
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The case again highlights the poor state of women's rights in Afghanistan, 10 years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban who were notorious for their harsh laws against women.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Thursday, it emerged that a teenage girl and her family were sprayed with acid after apparently rejecting a marriage proposal for her.
Following the outcry over Gulnaz's case, Karzai called a meeting where judicial officials decided to pardon her, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said on Thursday.
But the officials also said that Gulnaz should marry the man who attacked her, due to fears she could be in danger if released because of the stigma surrounding her attack in ultra-conservative Afghanistan.
She consented to the union, Faizi added.
"She agreed to the marriage but only if his [the attacker's] sister marries Gulnaz's brother," the spokesman added, explaining that this was a way to try to ensure Gulnaz was not attacked by the man in future.
Faizi insisted that her release from prison was not dependent on her agreeing to marry the attacker.
Violence against women in Afghanistan appears to be increasing rather than decreasing, despite billions of dollars of international aid that has poured into the country during the decade-long war.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission logged 1026 cases of violence against women in the second quarter of 2011 compared with 2700 cases for the whole of 2010.
Some 87 per cent of Afghan women report having experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage, according to figures quoted in an October report by the charity Oxfam.
Last week, the United Nations said that a landmark law aiming to protect women against violence in Afghanistan had only been used to prosecute just more than 100 cases since being enacted two years ago.
In the acid attack, a 17-year-old girl called Mumtaz was seriously injured when caustic liquid was sprayed on her face by masked gunmen who broke into her home in the northern city of Kunduz late on Sunday, her father said.
Her mother and four sisters also suffered burns in the attack after they were splashed with the acid aimed at Mumtaz, Sultan Mohammad said.
"It was midnight," Mohammad said from his hospital bed.
"They entered my home by force, they started beating me and put me in a big bag. They moved in and started beating my wife and daughters and before leaving, they sprayed acid on my daughter's face."
Mumtaz, who is hardly able to speak and is also still in hospital, added: "First they beat me, they beat my mother and sisters and then they threw acid on my face."
Mohammad blamed a former militia commander who had proposed marriage to Mumtaz but was rejected by the family.
"A man asked for her hand. We rejected (him) and our daughter was engaged to someone else. I suspect that man might be behind this," he said.
The attackers fled the scene before the police arrived.
Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi has "personally ordered" police to investigate and "administer justice to those responsible", his office said.
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Sisters attacked with acid after proposal is spurned
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KABUL: An Afghan teenage girl, together with two younger sisters, was the victim of an acid-throwing attack three days after her family declined a marriage proposal from an older man, according to authorities in Kunduz province north of Kabul.
All three sisters, including the eldest, a 17-year-old whose hand in marriage had been sought, and the youngest, who was nine, were hospitalised after the attack by three assailants who burst into their home late on Tuesday night. The third sister was 12 years old.
Family members identified one of the three attackers as the spurned groom, officials said. All three sisters suffered serious acid burns, doctors said.
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''I visited them in the hospital myself - their faces were all covered in bandages,'' Hamdullah Danishi, the acting governor of Kunduz, said. He said an investigation was under way.
Women's rights groups expressed outrage over the attack. ''We want the government to punish criminals like this,'' Nadera Geya, the head of the provincial women's rights commission, said.
Acid attacks against women and girls are not uncommon in Afghanistan. However, many do not come to light, especially if they are the result of a private clan dispute.
In a notorious case three years ago, a dozen schoolgirls in the southern city of Kandahar were splashed with acid by motorcycle-borne assailants who later said they were paid to carry out the attack by Taliban opposed to girls' education.
Arranged marriages are the norm in much of Afghanistan, and a woman generally cannot go against her family's wishes, except by running away - an offence that can result in a lengthy jail sentence.
But the young woman in Kunduz had the backing of her family, relatives said, because she was already engaged to someone else.
The Taliban, and the Pashtun ethnic group from which the movement is largely drawn, often take the harshest line against women who do not submit to forced marriages, but cultural norms are as unforgiving among other ethnic groups.
Sometimes girls and women are claimed by warlord-like figures in their communities; other times they are handed over to settle a clan dispute.
In the Kunduz case, the rejected groom was described as a mujahedeen, or a former anti-Taliban fighter.
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