(NEW YORK) — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday decried the latest surge of “moral crimes” in Afghanistan, in which women and girls are actually punished for offenses perpetrated against them by men.
The watchdog group pointed to the latest figures by Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry that found 600 females imprisoned for “moral crimes” as of May 2013 — a jump of 200 incarcerations since October 2011.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that 12 years after the Taliban was driven from power, “women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and rape. The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims.”
In virtually all cases of girls and half involving women, the “moral crimes” constituted running away from home in order to flee from forced marriages or abusive relationships.
Sex outside of marriage is also grounds for imprisonment of females, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Even a woman who is raped or forced into prostitution can be found guilty by Afghan courts on the charge of sex outside of marriage.
Women and girls accused of “moral crimes” can also be subject to “virginity tests” to determine if they engaged in recent sexual intercourse.
Among other things, Human Rights Watch is calling on President Hamid Karzai to declare that running away is not a crime, which would overturn the judgment of the Afghan Supreme Court that has deemed it should be prosecuted as such.
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Angela Dewan and Donie O'Sullivan, CNN
Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Alison Daye, CNN