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High-level Afghan government officials have for the first time publicly confirmed that it is not a criminal offense for women and girls to “run away” from home, Human Rights Watch said today. The officials also confirmed fleeing violence or running away was not a basis for women’s detention or prosecution.
Human Rights Watch urged the Afghan government to take immediate steps to end the unlawful imprisonment of women and girls accused of “running away.” Up to 70 percent of the approximately 700 female prisoners in Afghanistan have been imprisoned for running away, nearly always for fleeing forced marriage or domestic violence, a March 2012 Human Rights Watchreport found.
Human Rights Watch research in six prisons and juvenile detention centers has found that some 50 percent of women in prison and some 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention are accused of so-called “moral crimes.”
President Hamid Karzai has in recent years issued a number of presidential decrees releasing significant numbers of imprisoned women and girls, including some accused of “running away.” He has not, however, taken steps to free all women and girls imprisoned on these charges or to prevent future arrests and convictions for “running away.”
Read more: Human Rights Watch