Although we haven’t declared “mission accomplished” in Afghanistan yet, President Obama’s plans to withdraw troops from the region beginning in 2011 is still on track (despite the hesitation of top officers such as Gen. Petraeus).

That means that things are pretty good there, right?

Not quite.

Foreign Policy sheds some light on one of the persistent problems still facing civil society in Afghanistan – the systematic oppression of women and girls.

From the article:

Enter the cells of the Badam Bagh prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, and what culprits will you find locked up inside? A 16-year old recipient of an unplanned marriage proposal, a pregnant wife irrationally accused of adultery, and a veiled old woman who just displayed a “bad attitude.”

These unlikely suspects were accused of “moral crimes,” a new category of infractions for which half the incarcerated females in Afghanistan are held. The “immoral” misdemeanors also include refusing to marry, resisting rape or being raped, and — especially devastating in light of prevalent and severe domestic violence that compels many women to flee belligerent spouses — running away from home. Numerous “moral crimes” do not actually violate or even pertain to penal code; but this grouping of offenses requires no codification. Rather, they are loosely described as violations of Sharia law, however the accuser may choose to interpret it. In other words, “moral crimes” altogether lack definition, merely subscribing to a “You’ll know it when you see it” kind of classification that allows discrimination to infiltrate the legal system.

 Broad prosecutorial discretion is troubling wherever it occurs, because of the tremendous power it gives to (often unscrupulous) public servants. But the creation of a new class of laws altogether specifically designed to target women should be of particular concern to women’s organizations in the United States, who claim to advocate for the rights of women around the globe. Unfortunately, they’ve been strangely silent on the issue – caught up, I assume, in the fervor over the nomination of a fourth woman to the Supreme Court and still trying to deny claims that Sarah Palin is a feminist.

Fortunately, IWF has long been involved in the issue of international women’s rights, and will continue to stay engaged. Hopefully, other groups in town will start to listen and do the same.