On September 21, 2021, I received a heartbreaking call from a friend in Afghanistan. She was sobbing and inconsolable as her 19-year-old niece, Palwasha was forcibly taken from her home by 15 Taliban fighters under the direct guidance of leadership command. After fighting off forced marriage for three years to an older man in her home province of Kunduz, she was no longer under anyone’s protection when the Taliban took control over Afghanistan. They broke into my friend’s home, and the future husband beat Palwasha into submission in front of my friend and her young children. There were no police to call, community to rally with or support from human rights defenders.
My friend was alone and helpless to protect her niece from several forms of gender-based violence (GBV), forced marriage being the start. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many stories of this pervasive endemic I’ve witnessed during my time working in Afghanistan and since the Taliban’s control over the country. The World Health Organization (WHO)estimates 1 in 3 women have experienced GBV in their lifetime, 30% aged 15 and older. In Afghanistan alone, over 90% of women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.