400 women and girls held in Afghan jails for 'moral crimes'

400 women and girls held in Afghan jails for 'moral crimes'

 More than 400 women and teenage girls are currently languishing in jails across Afghanistan for ''moral crimes'', a new research has claimed.

The research by Human Rights Watch found female inmates are being held for "immorality", including running away from home to escape beatings or forced marriage or violent husbands and parents in-law, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

Virtually all teenage girls held in prison are accused of immorality, either extramarital sex or running away; In fact, in some cases, women had been charged with having extramarital sex after being raped or forced into prostitution, according to the research.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: "It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage.

"No one should be locked up for fleeing a dangerous situation even if it's at home. President (Hamid) Karzai and Afghanistan's allies should act decisively to end this abusive and discriminatory practice."

Running away is not an offence under the Afghan penal code, but the Supreme Court said in 2010 that women and girls who flee their homes and don't immediately go to the police or a close relative should be locked up as precaution against prostitution and promiscuity.

The court has declined to comment on the report.The United Nations has estimated around three quarters of marriages in Afghanistan are forced and unmarried girls are also sometimes given, or exchanged, to resolve disputes or stand in place of a dowry.

Few women are able to gain divorces. If they run away instead, the husband's family often press for a conviction of extramarital sex as well, as an extra punishment, the research by the rights group, headquartered in New York, has claimed.

"Even the most horrific abuses suffered by women seem to elicit nothing more than a shrug from prosecutors, despite laws criminalising violence against women," Roth said