Gulnaz: The Afghan woman who was jailed for “adultery” and forced to marry her rapist

In 2010, Gulnaz became a symbol of the oppressed and suffering women in Afghanistan’s tragically misogynist society. Her story sparked international outcry and sympathy, which was then widely seen by many as a potential antecedent to a renewed, and perhaps, more compassionate treatment of Afghan women.


Gulnaz was brutally raped by her husband’s cousin in 2008 when she was 16 inside their family home. Surprisingly, the rapist was imprisoned, but so is the poor victim, because her attacker was a married man. They call the case in Afghanistan “forced adultery”.

She became pregnant and was forced to give birth inside Badam Bagh, a women’s shelter in the capital Kabul. She was slapped with a two-year imprisonment in jail which was later increased to 12 years upon appeal, while her rapist only got 7 years as punishment for the crime.

Fortunately, the sentence was reduced to three years and she regained liberty when then President Hamid Karzai took pity on her case and released her without conditions, but not until after spending 13 months in prison.

Ostracized and rejected

But that was just the beginning of her terrible plight. Being outside and free, in a situation like Gulnaz’s in Afghanistan, does not add up to a good and peaceful life. In fact, it was the opposite.


Ostracized by society for being a rape victim of a married man, she was condemned and rejected, even by her own family.

With no other hope in sight and with a child to care for, many people have convinced her to marry her rapist; a condition stipulated in her previous appeals in exchange for freedom which she rejected outright before.

Finally, she gave in to the prodding and pressure of various people, including the government, to overcome shame and rejection by marrying her rapist – a decision her previous lawyer, American Kimberley Motley, was immensely disappointed about.

“Unfortunately, Gulnaz was heavily pressured to marry her attacker by various people within the government which, in and of itself,” Motley told CNN. “Gulnaz was constantly told that neither she nor her daughter would be protected if she did not succumb to their pressure to marry. Gulnaz essentially became a prisoner of her environment.”

I rescued her from shame – rapist-turned-husband

In February 2013, Gulnaz was forced to marry the man she loathed and caused her shame, loss of freedom and a part of her life. Many were disappointed at her decision, but there were a handful who sympathized. (Click here to read more)


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