Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dark Underbelly

Even as there are efforts in preparation for a troop drawdown, and that the world is increasingly becoming aware of the likelihood of Afghanistan becoming a proxy-battleground for key players in the world, the dark underbelly of Afghanistan is coming to light at breakneck speed. While the Taliban are being addressed and spoken to, the plight of women has not been ignored, especially considering the question as to the future of women, should the Taliban gain a foothold in the ruling responsibilities of the country.

However, there is precious little sense in only believing that the Taliban and its rule poses a threat to the status of women in Afghanistan.

The true issue is the questionable quantum of progress that has transpired in the aftermath of the Taliban’s ouster. During the five year span in which Afghanistan was subjugated to the Taliban regime, the situation that women faced was a confluence of atrocities, abuse and repression, reminiscent of those prevalent in the medieval era. When the Taliban was ousted and thrown out of power, a lot of time was spent in indulging in rhetoric suggesting a tendency to do something for the condition of women in the country- a first since the 1980s, at a point when the country had fallen prey to war.

Prison within a Prison?

But Sahar Gul’s story threw huge spokes in the wheel that the Afghan administration had been trying to push.
The fifteen year old, who perhaps hasn’t even had the chance to dream of seeing the world, was held captive for months at an end in a toilet, left to the mercy of her in-laws, who had mercilessly broken her fingers, pulled out her finger nails and tortured her for resisting their attempts to sell her as a prostitute was the chilling slap that forced focus on the harsh reality in the country. In the midst of all the joy and jubilation welcoming the participation of women in the Afghani society, of their proscription in the armed forces, of their indulgence in vanity and fashion shows and of their sudden right to enjoy music concerts, a many girls like Sahar were at the receiving end of harsh treatment. The crime of culture in the name of “honour” and “shame” coupled with the conventional modus operandi of bartering women to bring disputes to an end is an unholy melange.

With reports explaining the frugal implementation of the law Elimination of Violence Against Women, Afghanistan has more on its plate to deal with. Sahar Gul’s story is not fuel for jingoistic feminism, but a call for a strong response to the evil that still thrives in many homes in Afghanistan.