Last week, Women Under Siege published an article I’ve been researching for several months on a vicious legal and customary practice: allowing rapists to escape punishment my marrying their victims. There is no comprehensive list of countries that allow this practice, so it took a lot of digging to find out. Even though many Muslim countries have this provision in their law code, many Latin American countries did as well up until the last decade or so. And even when laws have been repealed, it may continue as a cultural practice because of the shame and stigma of rape.
Here’s a preview:
In Afghanistan, custom plays a large role. This was apparent in the case of a woman named Gulnaz who became pregnant after a man raped her—and who was then herself imprisoned for adultery. Her case, and the fact that a victim can be jailed for the crime she had to endure, gained international attention in December 2011, when President Hamid Karzai agreed to release Gulnaz. Although the BBC reported that her release was not on the condition that she marry her attacker, she told reporters that she may end up marrying him anyway, pressured by tradition.
While that tradition may be tied to religion, said Judith Tucker, a professor of Arab studies at Georgetown University and the author of Women, Family, and Gender in Islamic Law, it “doesn’t really have a root in the schools of Islamic law.”
According to Nada Rifki, a Moroccan women’s rights activist and writer for GlobalGirl Media, a nonprofit that trains teenage girls around the world in journalism, “Most of the men in our very patriarchal Muslim society will never marry a woman who was touched by another man.”
“Since I was a child,” Rifki said, “I was taught that, along with all the other girls in my society.”
Because of the shame associated with rape, she explained, many Moroccans consider marriage to one’s rapist the only viable solution for a victim. And until that notion changes, young girls like Filali may continue to opt for suicide over a lifetime of living with the men who violated them.
Check out the rest of the article here. Women Under Siege is a fantastic and necessary project connected to the Women’s Media Center that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.