An essay by Arezo Nowrozy

On November 5th, a man stabbed and killed his wife in front of Kabul’s family court. Although the news broke my heart, it didn’t surprise me. I am finishing law school next month and I volunteer at a family court in one of Afghanistan’s biggest cities. I often see men who threaten their wives if they insist on asking for divorce.

Although under Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution women and men have equal rights and women have the legal right to own property, it is very difficult for them to claim it because mostly men make the decisions. Women are considered second class and their families’ property and honor. In Afghanistan’s traditional society, women can rarely dare to ask for justice. Women who come to the court are usually looked down at and are punished by their families.

During my short period of volunteering at my city’s family court, I have learned that some judges misunderstand the Islamic values towards women. I have seen many times how the judge convinced women to go back to their abusive husbands, because according to them she is the one who has to obey and tolerate. In many cases, if the husband has been missing for four years, if he is addicted to drugs, if he cannot fulfill his job as a husband, the woman has the right to divorce, even if the husband rejects it. I have also seen some families who support their women’s decision.

I witnessed a case in which the father came to get his daughters’ divorce. I was shocked when his daughter told me that her father supported the divorce so he could marry her off to somebody else to get money from it. People look down at divorced women. One of the women who got a divorce came back to the court to tell us how her life became harder not better. She said that her brothers controlled her every breath.

Unfortunately, war and a lack of education has normalized violence in our society. We not only see it on the streets, but also in our homes. In order to improve Afghan women’s rights and lives, we need to change the society’s mentality. Most of our men believe that they have to act violently towards their women to prove their manhood and masculinity. We have to start the change from our homes. We need to teach our boys from a young age to respect women. The law must be enforced justly and equally.

I am very happy when I am able to help women in my community. I can feel that people respect me when they see that I speak up for their women. I hope that someday soon all women speak up for themselves and live in a just and safe world.

About the Author: Arezo Nowrozy lives in Afghanistan where she studies Law and Political Science. She is very interested in supporting and promoting women’s rights in her community. She wants to help women become aware of their rights and have access to justice. She wants to help her country end violence against women.

Writing by Afghan writers. Editor/Publisher: Nancy Antle; Editor: Pamela Hart