From the heart of Afghanistan, Sahar Gul is now a known name and face for the world – or at least for those that care. After being subjected to the most horrific treatment where the fifteen year old, who perhaps hasn’t even had the chance to dream of seeing the world, was held captive for months at an end in a toilet, left to the mercy of her in-laws, who had mercilessly broken her fingers, pulled out her finger nails and tortured her for resisting their attempts to sell her as a prostitute, Sahar Gul’s story was the chilling slap that forced focus on the harsh reality in the country. In the midst of all the joy and jubilation welcoming the participation of women in the Afghani society, of their proscription in the armed forces, of their indulgence in vanity and fashion shows and of their sudden right to enjoy music concerts, many girls like Sahar were at the receiving end of harsh treatment. The crime of culture in the name of “honour” and “shame” coupled with the conventional modus operandi of bartering women to bring disputes to an end is an unholy melange.
Today, Sahar Gul’s torturers have been handed down a 10-year sentence for the offence they perpetrated. Just 10 years. Sahar herself was present for the decision, telling the court that she wanted her in-laws "severely punished" for what they had put her through. The decision is hardly satisfactory whatsoever - 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.
Cut to Bangladesh. Hawa Akhtar Jui writes with a fingerless right hand. And how did that happen? Her husband decided to chop off her fingers because she was pursuing her studies “without his permission”. Today, she writes her exams with a fingerless hand and a prosthetic tool, pausing as the pain and strain takeover. She can’t write for long, dictating has become a way of life. But she is not deterred. She will study, and study well.
But seriously... What is with this world? Whoever said that a girl is anyone’s property, that she should be mercilessly prostituted and beaten if she refuses, or that she should “seek permission” to do something she is entitled to, such as studying? Why should anyone assume the right to determine the future of a girl to the point that she has absolutely no room to even whimper?
There is a Sanskrit Saying that says that a woman is a home, and home is society. I wonder where society is going, seeing as how the root of its subsistence is being destroyed so callously.
By Kirthi Gita Jayakumar