Maria Bashir, Afghanistan's only female prosecutor general, has been internationally praised for defending women's rights in a country where they are too often ignored. But according to figures leaked to The Times of London, Bashir has jailed more than 100 women for adultery, making her "the most prolific prosecutor of women for so-called moral crimes, which her benefactors have worked for more than a decade to eradicate from Afghanistan."
The paper reports that 101 out of 136 women doing time in the women's prison in Herat, the province over which Bashir presides, are there for "zina," better known to us as "sex outside of marriage." There are currently 172 women imprisoned for adultery in the entire country, so you do the math: more than half of all of the women jailed for adultery in Afghanistan come from Herat. According to Human Rights Watch, these women — many of whom are convicted of adultery after being raped or forced into prostitution — can get up to 15 years in jail.
Bashir "defies the odds - and the death threats - to battle corruption, crime and domestic abuse," TIME magazine wrote when they named her one of the most influential women of 2011, adding that "she is establishing precedents that will become the foundations of a just and equal society." A 2011 BBC profile noted that she was also celebrated as one of the US State Department's International Women of Courage at a ceremony presided over by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton (who Bashir, on the far left, is posing with in the above photo). "I want to convey the message to Afghan women around the world and encourage them to use whatever they have to rebuild this country because every drop counts," Bashir told the BBC.
Bashir's response to The Times was less inspiring; she said that the prosecution rate in Herat was higher than other provinces because Herat is close to Iran, "which culturally influences Afghans." She also said giving "justice to everyone" was "part of our job." We hope — and expect — that she'll have more to say than that as the story develops.
Afghan ‘defender of women's rights' Maria Bashir puts 100 in jail for adultery [The Times]
Paywall-free summaries: [Huffington Post] [Daily Mail]