In an update on our earlier story, Gulnaz, an Afghan woman imprisoned after her rape was reported to authorities, has received an unconditional presidential pardon. The ABA Journal reports that Gulnaz has been released from jail as the result of intervention by President Hamid Karzai and is staying in a women’s shelter. According to NBC News’ World Blog, more than half of the 600 women in prison in Afghanistan are serving sentences for “moral crimes” such as adultery and running away from home, and Gulnaz’s case is no aberration:
[T]he pardon came with a caveat. A press release from the presidential palace stated that the president had decreed her release “taking into consideration the consent of both sides for a conditional wedlock.”
The ABA Journal says that President Karzai’s office has denied press reports stating that Gulnaz’s pardon was initially conditioned on her marrying her rapist.
An unconditional presidential pardon cannot give Gulnaz or her child back the two years they have already served in prison together, nor does it address much-needed reform to a legal system that imprisoned a rape victim for committing adultery because her rapist was married. EU Ambassador and Special Representative to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, told BBC News Asia:
While we applaud the release of Gulnaz, on the orders of President Karzai, it is the hope of the European Union that the same mercy that has been extended to Gulnaz is applied to all women in similar circumstances.
Notwithstanding her presidential pardon, Gulnaz may still be in danger. Raped women in her community are sometimes the targets of so-called “honor” killings because they are perceived to have shamed their families and themselves.