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Afghan Woman Is Pardoned and Freed After Rape Report Put Her in Prison for Adultery

Posted Dec 14, 2011 9:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Afghan woman imprisoned after reporting she had been raped has been released from jail, thanks to intervention by President Hamid Karzai.

The woman, who has been identified only as Gulnaz, is staying at a women’s shelter in Kabul, CNN reports. She had been sent to prison for adultery after she reported that her cousin’s husband had raped her.

U.S. lawyer Kimberley Motley had helped Gulnaz secure a pardon from Karzai. Early press reports said the pardon was conditioned on Gulnaz marrying her rapist, but Karzai’s office assured Motley that wasn’t true, BBC News reported earlier this month.

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, according to the NBC News World Blog. Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan told the World Blog that Gulnaz's case isn't an aberration.

"These cases send a message to all Afghan women who are facing forced marriage, or abuse in the home, or sexual assault that there isn’t any help available to them and the consequences of seeking help are likely to be further victimization,” Barr said.

Now that Gulnaz is free, she may still be in danger because raped women are often killed for the shame caused to the community, CNN says.

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