In Afghanistan, women are expected to be virgins on their wedding night. If they cannot prove their intact hymen, brides face lashings or even death.
A woman in Afghanistan recently told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan that “in some areas of the country” the woman’s in-laws check her sheets for bloodstains after the wedding night. If the sheets lack blood, the in-laws can “demand that their ‘damaged’ daughter-in-law be exchanged for her sister.” The country imprisons non-virgins “for adultery.”
“In some cases, a bride’s ears and nose are cut off,” she explained. “They are forced into dirty clothes and taken back to her parent’s home. Their heads are shaved. The bride’s family is told that she is not a virgin. Other times, a bride is simply killed and her body is returned to her parents.”
An Afghan law passed in 2013 allows the government to stone to death anyone guilty of adultery. Rohullah Qarizada, a member of the Sharia Islamic law committee, said there must be four witnesses in order for a couple to receive the stoning. Human rights groups could not believe the Afghanistan government would bring back the punishment after Taliban rule regularly executed couples in public for allegedly having premarital sex.
“It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment,” stated Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The Taliban in the Sozma Qala district stoned to death a couple in September. Then, in October, the Taliban stoned to death a woman only known as Rokhsahana in the Ghor province. The video no longer exists, but outlets said the woman’s “voice grows increasingly loud as she screams from the pain when the rocks strike her body.” Her parents married her to a man against her will, but she decided to elope with another man. The Taliban accused her of having sex out of wedlock. Female Governor Seema Joyenda spoke out against the stoning.
However, only a month before the stoning, Joyenda’s government approved the sentence of 100 lashes against a couple who allegedly engaged in premarital sex. An Afghan judge whipped the man and woman in public in Ghor.
“They had relations a long time ago but were arrested early this month,” explained a spokesman for Joyenda. “Their punishment is based on Sharia law and will teach others a lesson.”
A man and his girlfriend received 100 lashes for premarital sex in November 2014. A court sentenced the couple, aged 19 and 21, after a trial in the Kohistan region.
“The punishment was applied to both in accordance with the rules of Islamic Sharia law, because they are of legal age to be punished,” said Governor Mohamed Osman Haqyar Ahmadi in an attempt to justify the penalty.
If the government does not intervene, the woman also faces severe punishment from her family and husband.
“The existing culture among some families is that a ruined girl is given back to her family,” clarified Mariam Zurmati, a commissioner at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “In order to escape dishonor, that family will offer another of their daughters for marriage. In some regions, women are simply killed. In some cases, even after years of marriage, a husband will abuse his wife.”
Not all women bleed after their first sexual encounter, though it is commonly believed they should in Afghanistan.
“I have a sister who didn’t bleed when she got married,” said a woman only knows as Marzia. “Her husband beats her and she has bruises everywhere. Even after years of living together, he still abuses her and tells her she has been tarnished.”
Some families do not want to wait for the wedding night for proof. These families force the females to undergo invasive and unreliable virginity tests.
“Virginity and adultery tests are part of our normal work,” said medical expert Del Aqa Mahboobi.
The virginity test is used in many countries. The government of Indonesia came under fire for the test for any woman who wanted to join the police force. In 2013, Mumbai officials demanded the two finger test to determine if a rape victim was actually raped. From Firstpost:
In a two-finger test, a doctor at the government hospital inserts two fingers into the rape victim’s vagina to check for the presence or absence of the hymen and also to check the ‘laxity’ of the vagina, ostensibly to check if penile penetration has taken place.
As Firstpost noted in this article: “The test is deemed to establish whether the woman has had sexual intercourse and if she is habituated to it. Incidentally even that can’t be ascertained from this test since the presence or absence of hymen or width of the vagina has no correlation with virginity or sexual activity.”
Human rights organizations have continuously denounced the horrible treatment of women in Afghanistan, but the government has yet to alter its policy.
“Women human rights defenders from all walks of life have fought bravely for some significant gains over the past 14 years – many have even paid with their lives. It’s outrageous that Afghan authorities are leaving them to fend for themselves with their situation more dangerous than ever,” declared Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.