Relatives who tortured Afghan child bride get stiff sentences
In-laws of girl get 10 years in prison for torture, abuse
A child bride in Afghanistan, who became the brutalized face of women's
rights in her native land, now knows a measure of justice. Her in-laws
have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for torture, abuse and human
rights violations, a judge said.
Fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul captured Afghanistan's heart and set off a storm of stirring, international condemnation when it came to light in late December.
Rescued by police in northeastern Baghlan province, her plight became known after an uncle alerted authorities.
Gul's husband's father, mother and sister were each sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Kabul, presiding judge Sibghatullah Razi said.
Gul's husband, a member of the Afghan army, and her brother-in-law, both of whom have been on the run since her case became public, will be sentenced when they are captured.
Gul was present for the decision, telling the court that she wanted her in-laws "severely punished" for what they had put her through. She has filed an appeal for a longer sentence with the help of the Women for Afghan Women, a group that works for women's rights in the country and has been caring for the teenager since her rescue.
"Of course we are not happy with the court's decision," Huma Safi, program manager for the group said.
The incident has prompted calls for more efforts to strengthen women's rights and end underage marriage. The legal marriage age in Afghanistan is 16, but the United Nations agency U.N. Women estimates that half of all Afghan girls are forced to marry under age 15.
There has been progress in women's rights since the 2001 U.S.-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime. Girls are now attending school, and can leave their homes unattended without male escorts.
In Afghanistan's patriarchal society, traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts and so-called "honor killings" in which women seen as disgracing their families are murdered by their relatives.
Gul had been married for seven months when she was found in late December. She is still receiving medical help for some problems with her hands and fingers, but is doing better both physically and emotionally. She said the girl is now very interested in studying, very different from when she first arrived.
She also has made great progress in her efforts to become comfortable around other people again, Safi said.
"She was very brave. When she was brought to us after her rescue, she was unable to speak. But this week she was able to get up and speak in front of an entire courtroom asking for her rights," Safi said.
"These are all positive signs and of course we are very proud of her."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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