Hundreds of women are jailed for 'morality crimes,' including adultery or running away from home

When the Taliban seized power, the operator of the only women’s shelter in a northern Afghan city ran away. Left abandoned were 20 women who had fled a variety of domestic horrors, some abused by husbands or family, others forced into early marriages with older men, the Associated Press reports.

Soon after, the Taliban arrived at the shelter in the city of Pul-e-Kumri.

They gave the women two options: Return to their abusive families — some of whom had threatened them with death for leaving — or go with the Taliban, recalled one of the women, Salima, who asked only that her first name be used.

Most of the women chose to return home, fearing the Taliban more than their families. Salima said she knew of at least one who was since killed, likely by an angry family member.

But Salima decided to leave with the Taliban. She didn’t know what they would do, but she had nowhere else to go, having fled her abusive, drug-addicted husband months earlier. Now she finds herself housed in a prison — but protected and safe, she says.

Whether under Taliban rule or not, women in Afghanistan’s deeply conservative and often tribal society are often subject to archaic codes of behavior that hold them responsible for the honor of their families. They can be killed for simply marrying a man of their choice. They are often married at puberty. Fleeing even an abusive husband is considered shameful. Hundreds of women are jailed for so-called “morality crimes,” including adultery or running away from home, even though they are not officially crimes under the Afghan penal code.

Over the past two decades, activists set up dozens of women’s shelters around Afghanistan. But even before the Taliban takeover, conservative Afghans, including government officials, viewed them with suspicion, as places that help women and girls defy their families or abet “moral crimes.”

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