February 25, 2011
Afghan Government to Seize SheltersBy Wendy Wright
Women's shelters in Afghanistan may soon come under the control of government leaders who follow Sharia law.
Battered women, child brides, and rape victims who may be killed by their families have few choices in Afghanistan. Islamic clerics endorse wife beating, and women who run away have been cruelly punished. Shelters, supported by independent groups and the U.N., sprang up after the U.S. and allies overthrew the Taliban. They provide security, skill training, and education for illiterate women.
But adherence to Sharia has become the basis of political one-upmanship.
Enayatullah Balegh, a member of Afghanistan's Council of Muslim scholars, said Sharia allows women to live only with a close male relative -- her husband, father, brother, or son. Thus women's shelters are illegal and should be shut down.
In October 2010, the Afghan Supreme Court said that women who run away from home can be charged with prostitution or adultery unless they go to the police or a relative's home. In January 2011, the Council of Ministers released regulations requiring that women seeking shelter must first seek admission from a government panel, have monthly examinations to monitor their sexual activity, practice and study Islam, and be accompanied to the shelters by a husband or a male relative.
Those who run shelters say that government officials already pressure them to hand women back to their communities, even if it's likely the women will be killed. Shelters will be unlikely to refuse if they are run by government officials.
The Karzai government, notorious for corruption and threatening to partner with the Taliban, accused the shelters of corruption and mismanagement. Hussan Ghazanfar, the acting minister of women's affairs -- the department that would gain control of the independent shelters -- claimed the 11 registered havens receive millions in international funding but only take in 210 women. She conceded that did not include all the women helped, but rather how many were residing in shelters the day they checked.
"The international community gives $11 million and we can work with much less of a budget," she said. "If they are not ready to give us this money, only one million will take care of this."
Manizha Naderi, whose organization, Women for Afghan Women, runs four shelters, told The New York Times, "That's a total lie." Her shelter in Kabul helps 40 women on any given day, 350 women in a year, at a total cost of $100,000. "There is no shelter in Afghanistan with a million dollar budget."
The government takeover of women's shelters is a stark example of the totalitarian nature of Sharia law. The most desperate, abused, helpless women are allowed no refuge, no place where they can be treated as human beings. Every institution is expected to conform to mullahs' interpretations.
This contrasts sharply with Judeo-Christian beliefs, which teach that we are all created in the image of God, and we are to treat each other as we want to be treated.
How would Jesus treat an outcast woman? We don't have to guess -- the Bible shows us.
He rescued a woman accused of adultery from being stoned by her community.
He reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well, who had a shady background -- entrusting her to be the messenger of the good news that He is the Messiah, and by doing so, elevating her in the community and in history.
Unlike Sharia law, which requires multiple women's testimonies to equal one man's, the Bible reports, "And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all that I ever did.'" (John 4:39)
The battered women in Afghanistan and others under the cruel tyranny of Sharia can use our prayers that they would be treated with the dignity that Jesus showed.
Wendy Wright is President of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization.