"My husband doesn't like it. I cannot go out without this permission," says President Karzai's wife.
An Afghan bill permitting a husband to starve his wife if she refuses
to have sex has become law. A wife must also get her husband's permission to work. Fathers and
grandfathers have also been awarded exclusive custody of the children.
The law also allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl who was injured when he raped her.
Hamid Karzai has sold out Afghan women for the sake of conservative Shia islam support ahead of the presidential election.
A women's rights campaigner who has known the wife of Afghan President Karzai
for years tells Panorama that women's rights do not necessarily extend to the
Part I: Women in Islam
Tell me again what America's finest young people are doing over there?
The smell of disinfectant mingled with burnt flesh was overpowering – I
was in the special burns unit in Herat's hospital.
It was set up by a French charity in the Afghan city to treat women who
set fire to themselves, usually to escape a violent husband or a forced
There I found Zeinab, an 18-year-old mother of two. Her eyes were vacant, her
body covered with a mesh suit to conceal the raw flesh. After two years of
constant beating she had poured oil from a lamp over herself, in front of her
"I was going to wash it off. I am not the sort that would commit suicide,"
she told me, "then he jeered and said 'Look, she spent 20 Afghanis of my money
to buy oil and didn't even burn herself'".
Zeinab grabbed the matches and set herself alight. This one unit sees 100
cases each year, but most women die before they reach the hospital.
I was in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 when the whole
world expressed outrage over the medieval regime which had forbidden women to
work, banned girls from schools and executed women in a football stadium.
After the country was liberated, women were supposed to cast off their
burkhas and embrace the new democracy introduced by President Hamid Karzai's
The new Constitution promised them equality and human rights under the law.
Eight years on, as I travelled around Afghanistan listening to their stories,
I found that the vast majority of women are still downtrodden and desperate.
But some brave women are fighting against the odds to improve their own lives
and those of other women.
Saida has taken refuge from her abusive husband in a women's
Sold for sex
A staggering 60% of women are still forced into marriage as children – often
as young as nine or ten. That has not changed since the West intervened, despite
Afghan law stating that girls under 16 should not be married.
In practice, the government and families ignore the law. In the city of
Mazar-i-Sharif, I found 17-year-old Saida who was on the run from her husband.
Her father had died when she was little and her brothers had claimed her as
their property. They sold her off, at the age of 9, to a 60-year-old man.
"If he saw a shoe or a stick, anything – he would beat me with it," Saida
said, "I had four miscarriages because of the beating and the stress".
Then her husband took his child bride on the road to places where they were
not known and sold her to other men, forcing her to have sex with them.
Finally, Saida confided in a woman at a shrine in Mazar-i-Sharif, the police
were alerted and Saida was taken to a women's shelter.
Staff at the shelter are helping her get a divorce, but her husband will not
agree to let her go.
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