They had to flee from the Taliban. But even in Germany, a country that is one of the most important advocates of women’s freedom and rights, many Afghan women still suffer from oppression and gender inequality. And under violence.
Because many of these women do not know their rights, they do not know about their rights and freedoms in their host country, they are not aware of the laws and structures for the protection of women. As a result, Afghan women and girls sometimes live in slave-like conditions here in Germany and are exposed to family violence that is justified by religion and tradition.
Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone. There are many Afghan women – in Afghanistan as well as in Germany – who go their own way, shape their lives themselves and are supported by their families. 114,000 women with Afghan nationality are recorded in the central register of foreigners – there is no statistical evidence of how many of them are exposed to domestic violence. But there are many.
Many Afghan women do not dare to disregard traditions
In Berlin there are dozens of small and large advice centers for refugee women and families. Women can get free advice and help on sexual, psychological and social issues. But many Afghan women are unaware that these centers exist. And when they know about it, most don’t go because they feel they are disobeying their husbands and disregarding religious rules and family traditions.
Bahar (pseudonym) is a 21-year-old Afghan who has lived in Germany for seven years and married her cousin three years ago. She sacrificed her dreams, she says, because she’s a woman. She was about to start an apprenticeship when she decided to follow her family’s will and get married.
She says: “When I got married, my husband asked me to give birth to a child as soon as possible. My family and my husband’s family insisted. I got pregnant right after the wedding. I later found out that my husband and his family cared so much about my becoming a mother because I insisted on continuing my education and then working outside the home.”
Bahar’s story is not the fate of an individual, but affects hundreds of Afghan women and girls who have come to Germany. The fact that they came to democratic Germany did not change their situation. They still suffer because they are women.
Violence against women exists in all societies, it also exists in Germany and western countries. But there is a difference: women in western countries are at least aware of their individual rights and freedoms. The fact that they are sometimes oppressed and do not fight back has other reasons.
Afghan women grow up thinking that a woman should be a submissive being.
But in Afghanistan, talking about “women’s rights” is seen as an attempt by women to evade moral and religious rules. When a woman in Germany seeks her individual freedom, it is seen as an expression of society’s licentiousness.
Thus, Afghan women grow up from childhood with the thought that a woman is a submissive being, without a will of her own and condemned to restrictions. For most Afghan girls and women, the situation does not really change when they find themselves in a new environment in Germany.
Here in Germany, too, Afghan women make many kinds of sacrifices to fulfill men’s needs and desires and tolerate many kinds of violence in their homes by keeping silent.
Hundreds of Afghan women in Germany and here in the city wear the hijab even though they don’t want to – under pressure from their husbands, fathers or legal guardians.
The men of the family cite religion as the reason. In many Afghan families, when a woman resists religion, it means she is cast out from the family and blood can even be shed.
They marry sons of the family, are forced to become pregnant and are sometimes even raped. Each of these violent behaviors is religiously and morally legitimized.
In Afghanistan, rape occurs only when a man has violent sexual intercourse with a woman who is not married to him. The same definition applies to Afghan families in Germany.
As a result, a large number of Afghan women in Germany also become pregnant unintentionally because their husbands want it. The husband decides how many children the wife will have, and families even blame the wife for the (wrong) sex of the child.
These women could get help in Germany, but they are not aware of it. Because according to Afghan tradition, they will often be locked up in their homes by the men of the family. Only the men of Afghan families enjoy the freedoms in Germany. That has to change, and to do this politicians have to approach the Afghan community in Germany in a more targeted manner, making low-threshold offers available to women in the neighborhood, in schools and kindergartens. So that they too have the chance of a more self-determined and non-violent life.
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