In-laws Rip Off Girl’s Fingernails, But Who Cares?

Fifteen-year-old Sahar Gul’s in-laws locked her away in a basement for six months. They beat her, tortured her with hot irons, broke her fingers, and ripped her fingernails off. Her uncle called authorities and by the time she arrived at a hospital her eyes were swollen nearly shut and scabs crusted her fingertips.

Afghanistan allows multiple wives, including child brides. This young bride had been taken in hopes of pimping her out in prostitution. The abuse was meant to persuade.

What struck me most in the AP report were the following lines:

The outcry over a case like Gul’s probably would not have happened just a few years ago because of deep cultural taboos against airing private family conflicts and acknowledging sexual abuse.

I am heartened that things are changing, with public outrage and an editorial in the Afghanistan Times reading, “Let’s break the dead silence on women’s plight.”

But to think that not long ago horrendous abuses like Sahar’s would have provoked no comment is outrageous. You have to wonder why women’s plight has been invisible for so long. And whether Afghanistan is alone in its blindness.

Women must be poorly valued for such abuses to go on without remark: mere property to be sold off, to make money off of, to beat when “disobedient,” to be stoned as spectator sport. And in some cases, to be tortured like lab rats.

When that is all you’ve known your whole life, when this world seems normal to all around you, who can fully see the horror?

Yet America isn’t always so different. Many still blame rape victims for their rape, and many victims still fear coming forward. Battering victims may be blamed for their abuse. Bullied spouses may feel shamed and cover up — and cover for their partners. Half of the teens who were surveyed in the Boston Public Health Commission’s Start Strong Initiative poll believe Rihanna should be blamed for the beating Chris Brown meted out.

The world is changing in Afghanistan.

The world needs changing right here in America, too.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 13, 2012, in feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Sadly, this kind of behavior toward women happens all around the world everyday, although we don’t hear about them often.

    It is mostly common in some third world countries, because there is usually no law to protect women, and even if there is a law, the punishment is limited to a slap on the hand.

    Additionally, the family and social interactions in those societies make women afraid and embarrassed to step forward and seek legal help, because they are concerned about how their family, friends and other people going to judge them.

    But it is different in countries such as the United States. Here women have the complete support of the law, yet they choose to stay quite about the abuses. I personally cannot understand how they stay quiet. Is it from love of their partner, fear or the same as third world countries they are afraid of the judgment of society? But one thing I am certain about, no human being likes to be treated the way that Sahar Gul had been treated and blaming the victims of violence would be very unfair and unreasonable.

    • Yes, U.S. women do enjoy many legal protections that women in many parts of the world do not.

      re: I personally cannot understand how they stay quiet. Is it from love of their partner, fear or the same as third world countries they are afraid of the judgment of society?

      Answer: Yes, you answered your own question. Because women are too often blamed for violence against them, they worry about how people will judge them.

  2. Wu Cheuk Yin (Cherry)

    I searched lots of Afghanistan bullying and humiliating news from the internet. An Afghanistan girl called Bebe got beaten daily by her husband. She tried to escape but failed, and finally she was incurred retaliation of brutally cutting off her ears and nose. What the men do is totally unacceptable and unforgivable. They don’t respect women at all. I can’t believe these are still happening in the 20th century. I think that these absurd and ridiculous incident occour in Afghanistan always because of the rule of laws there don’t protect women and make them not be respected.

  3. This was extremely upsetting to read, because you don’t really hear or learn about the different situations women in other countries are dealing with. I think one of them main reasons people aren’t trying to change the way women around the world are treated is because we aren’t educated about it. Living in the US we aren’t taught about tortchure, rape and humiliation that women are dealing with in other countries and that is so shocking because I definitly think it is a global issue. I am only 18 but I know that it wasn’t to long ago that woman in the US weren’t protected by laws and we were humiliated and tortchured like women in other countries, but again we aren’t taught about that, or educated about that in grade school, and even in most college courses.

  4. In some places women still don’t have fair and equal rights. In this situation, in the area that she was raised in, privacy is a big part of their lives. The men rule everything and have the “final” decision. For example; multiple wives? What happened to loving one person unconditionally? Prostituting children is a horrible crime, and unfortunately we rarely hear about these crimes. A man should love and cherish a woman as well as a child, even if not his own, like they are his own. Beating and torturing a child is a crime, in anyones eyes. They need to give the women rights, because without rights then women have no value. I think everyone needs to be educated more on women, and their rights, and be introduced to more of the problems that women have worldwide. Being auctioned off and turned into a bride at the ages of 8, 9, 10 years old is just plain wrong. Give women a voice, a chance, and some faith because were not as “weak” as the male eye sees.

  5. WOW! really….I’ve never even heard of such a thing. How can a human being inflict such pain and debatchery, willingly, on another person. I do understand there is a difference between cultures and that such a thing is accepted in other places. If that was my daughter there wouldn’t be a place on this planet you could hide. In places like the middle east, where women are less than human, it is ridiculous that this kind of behavior continues. I was playing a game on my iPhone about a month ago with a woman in Saudi Arabia. It was interesting talking to her about how women in her country were treated. She was going on a trip with her husband and 2 kids the next day and was saddened by the fact that she had to ride in the back seat of the car. Apparently the women still aren’t allowed to drive. They are made to ride as the subordinate in the back seat, while the MAN controls everything. It is very sad that women have to live like that. The United States is an amazing place for women to live. They literally can go or do anything the want, sure there is exceptions to the rule, but for the most part oppression isn’t as extreme as in some other countries. If someone doesn’t stand up for people like the girl in this article, what kind of world is this.

  6. Dominique Dillon

    While reading this article I felt sudden shivers down my spine and cover my entire body. I have strong feelings that nobody or animal should be treated in a malice way. Just looking at Sahar Gul’s picture and seeing the tremendous abuse she had to endure brings tears down my eyes. In my culture arranged marriages are not looked down upon. In Sahar’s situation this arrangement of marriage was doomed from the beginning since its states she was taken into marriage to be force into prostitution. Sahar’s uncle did what any family member today would do by contacting the authorities and getting her some help. It is hard for me to come to terms that if this situation would have happen several years ago the outcry would not have happened because of cultural taboos.
    Lastly, I do believe of the change that is needed for abuse victims who are blamed for the abuse they endured. I know this article is focused toward women being victims but I believe anyone male or female can be a victim. Our justice system as well as upbringing influences us to believe there are two sides to every story and we need to analysis both sides to come to a decision. Some outsiders looking in may analyze from their own preconceptions, and believe the victim is the one to blame. As I mentioned earlier nobody deserves to be abused in any form.
    I do want to apologize if I went off topic. I also want to applaud you Dr. Georgia Platts for sharing this story. Thank you and I will continue reading your blogs because they are very informative.

  1. Pingback: Who Cares? « Female Gazing

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