Despite Afghan Reforms, Afghan Child Bride's Torture Shows Major Cultural Obstacles
Sahar Gul is 15 years old. There are no "happily-ever-after" marriage fantasies for her. There never were. Her marriage was arranged. Her body was never her own. Her husband and his family intended to get rich from her marriage contributions. How? Coerced prostitution. It's a lucrative "profession" for Afghan or even Iraqi families pimping their daughters or daughters-in-law, whose youth is always alluring to men looking for a little light entertainment, regardless of their marriage vows or age. If a woman can be bought? Why not. She is not their equal and certainly her feelings or wishes are the last to be considered; she is no more than a beast of labor, a sex-out for them.
The hope was that these folkways were changing for Afghan women as the Karzai government attempted to institute reforms, even recently pardoning a woman from being stoned. But the cultural traditions are so entrenched that the moment the EU, the Karzai government or women's organizations move the culture in one direction, men seething with confusion, resentment and resistance to a power shift away from their self-prepossession without a means to fill the emotional abyss created, propel the culture away from reform with violent reactions and incidents that mostly occur sub rosa.
It is rare when egregious victimization is exposed to the public eye, like the case of Sahar Gul. She easily could have been killed and joined one of the unidentified countless wives over the centuries who displeased her husband and family and paid for it with her life. But not this wife, not this time, because neighbors reported hearing her crying and moaning in pain and the police came to her rescue.
Police found the starving, mutilated teen in critical condition in a dark basement toilet. Gul's eyes were swollen nearly shut. Black scabs crusted her fingertips where her nails used to be. Bruises and burn holes marred her body. Her right ear was disfigured, swollen and crusted over. As she recovered in the hospital, pieces of her story emerged. How many other Afghan women shared a fate similar to hers but didn't hold on like she did after months of abuse? For it was beatings which Gul sustained rather than to give in to her in-laws' demands to become a prostitute and make money for them.Continued on the next page