Inside shelters for victims of domestic violence
Victims of family violence are living in the safe home in Kabul. Violence experienced by these inmates may be happening in other parts of the country as well. Some women have also brought their children to the facility.
Maryam, 21, a resident of the Zari district of northern Balkh province, claimed she was thrice raped and had to come to Kabul in quest of refuge at the women’s safe home.
“It has been four months that I came to Kabul. I have since been living in this safe home but my case is is yet to be decided. My father came only once to see me during this period,” she said.
Pajhwok had earlier interviewed Maryam, but no progress has been made in her case. She said: “I wake up early in the morning, offer prayers, recite the Quran and clean my room. I am really unhappy with whatever happened to me and I rarely eat.”
Looking off-colour, she added: “I hate this life and always think what good is my life that has already been destroyed. I have lost my direction and think death is better than living a life like this.”
Laila, 23, hailing from Baghlan province, fell victim to forced marriage and family violence four years back. “A month after my mother’s death, a group of people came to our house. I thought they had come for condolences, but my father married me off to a 37-year-old man.”
She said her father also got married after some time and she was beaten and torched by her husband without reason.
She said her husband was a murderer who killed his father and uncle, he used to drink day and night used to beat her regularly.
Laila said: “My husband would snatch my money which I earned through weaving and sometimes beat me if I didn’t have it. He used to extract my fingernails for two times and squeezed my fingers under stone to pay him money, which I didn’t have.”
This young woman while being deeply upset said she was injured by armed individuals, who were her husband's lenders, in front her residence’s gate using a weapon. She spent three months in the Kunduz hospital for recovery of her injuries.
She said after being discharged from the hospital, she came to her father’s home; but as Laila was being tortured by her step mother, she complained to Police and was consequently transferred to the safe home.
Content with her security, Laila she said during her initial days at the safe house, she called her father several times to take her home. But he responded: “You aren’t my daughter anymore because you have gone to the safe home, a hub of immorality.
“After hearing my father’s words, the safe home is now a boring place for me. But I am forced to be here to preserve my honour. And I am obliged to be here until my fate is determined.”
The safe home administrator said the support and protection facility was established in 2004 after the Taliban’s regime collapsed. About 57 girls and women, 20 with children, enjoy protection here.
He explained women living there were referred by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the Ministry of Women Affairs or the police headquarters and after certain legal procedures were met.
Women at the safe home, besides having free accommodation, also had access to health services and counseling. Whenever the women get ready, steps are taken to have their problems addressed by judicial organs with help from defence lawyers.
“Women protected here are mostly child brides or those who were married off to settle disputes. Other women were forcibly married or have been subject to domestic violence and beatings.”
Despite the challenges resulting from security concerns, officials at the support centres conduct training and vocational courses -- sewing, embroidery, cooking, literacy and teaching of Holy Quran.
One of the steps that could help reduce violence against women in the long term is promoting public awareness about living in peace within families. This can be added to school syllabus teach men how to treat their wives, daughters, mothers or sisters.
Nazai Faizi, a Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) official who is in charge of the facilities, said 28 safe homes, six of them in Kabul, existed across the country.
According to her, the ministry is monitoring the function of these safe homes and it also takes necessary measures for the improvement of living conditions inside the shelters.
Fawzia Kofi, head of the women’s affairs commission of the Wolesi Jirga, said: “In the absence of safe centres, problems and challenges of women, who need help, will significantly increase.”
But she alleged officials at some safe homes did not behave well with inmates and saw them as criminals. The women, having experienced violence and threats, need protection, good behavior and medical care.
The organisations concerned should take into consideration these issues and the government should also closely monitor their functioning to prevent abuse, the lawmaker concluded.
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