It is difficult to imagine what it feels like to be Gulnaz. She was only 19-years-old when she was raped and impregnated by her cousin’s husband in Afghanistan. If that were not bad enough, Gulnaz, along with her baby, are serving a 12-year prison sentence for her “crime” — the crime of being raped — or, as the authorities put it: dishonoring her family by having sexual intercourse out of wedlock.
“He had filthy clothes on as he does metal and construction work. When my mother went out, he came into my house and he closed doors and windows. I started screaming, but he shut me up by putting his hands on my mouth,” Gulnaz said of her rapist.
Now, the only hope for Gulnaz if she wishes to escape prison is to marry her rapist. The move would purportedly restore her honor. An unattractive choice made all the more fruitless by the fact that, if freed, Gulnaz could still face an honor killing by either her rapist’s family, or her own.
“I was asked if I wanted to start a new life by getting released, by marrying this man,” she told CNN in an interview. “My answer was that one man dishonored me, and I want to stay with that man.”
“My daughter is a little innocent child. Who knew I would have a child in this way. A lot of people told me that after your daughter’s born give it to someone else, but my aunt told me to keep her as proof of my innocence.”
One glimmer of hope may be that Gulnaz’s plight has drawn international attention because of a dispute between the European Union and a team of documentarians who were producing a film on women’s rights in Afghanistan.
The documentary makers filmed a lengthy report on Gulnaz and other women, showing her talking openly about her fate. They showed the film to the EU, who were paying for it as part of a project on female rights here. After viewing it, the EU decided to spike the project.
The EU said it was concerned about the safety of the women in the film: they could be identified and might face reprisals. The filmmakers however suspect — citing an email leaked from the EU delegation — that the EU might also be motivated by its sensitive relationship with Afghan justice institutions, since he film shows the Afghan justice system in a very unflattering light.
The leaked email says: “The delegation also has to consider its relations with [Afghan] Justice institutions in connection with the other work that it is doing in the sector.”
The EU Ambassador to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, denied political motivations were at play in asking the film not to be shown.
“What I am concerned about is that situation of the women. About the security and well being, that’s of paramount importance, the key criteria according to which I, as representative of the European Union will judge,” said Usackas.
Meanwhile, a desperate Gulnaz is poised to marry her rapist in the hopes she can continue to rear her child.