KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Mariam was 11 in 2003 when her parents forced her to marry a blind, 41-year-old cleric. The bride price of $1,200 helped Mariam’s father, a drug addict, pay off a debt.
Mariam was taken to live with her new husband and his mother, who, she says, treated her like a servant. They began to beat her when she failed to conceive a child. After two years of abuse, she fled and sought help at a police station in Kabul.
Until only a few years ago, the Afghan police would probably have rewarded Mariam for her courage by throwing her in jail — traditional mores forbid women to be alone on the street — or returning her to her husband.
Instead, the police delivered her to a plain, two-story building in a residential neighborhood: a women’s shelter, something that was unknown here before 2003.Since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, a more egalitarian notion of women’s rights has begun to take hold, founded in the country’s new Constitution and promoted by the newly created Ministry of Women’s Affairs and a small community of women’s advocates...
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