The great number of Afghan women who commit self-immolation (burning oneself to death) is one of the most tragic responses to gender violence in that country. Aside from the horror of dying, surviving this act makes its victims unfit for a normal life. They are often permanently maimed, disfigured, and shunned by their communities.
Unless present laws regarding the protection of women are fully implemented, the consequences of gender violence will continue to exact a punishing effect on Afghan women’s lives.
Self-immolation seems to be the only response available to women who want to escape domestic abuse, forced marriage and other misogynistic social customs. Although many Afghans reinforce these social customs based on their interpretation of Islam, these practices are inconsistent with Sharia law as well as with Afghan and international law since they violate women’s basic human rights.
Reliable national statistics on this phenomenon are not available, since many families cover up these acts because of shame. At the same time, lack of good medical care and adequate government services means that such events are never officially recorded. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), 106 cases of self-immolation were registered in 2006, 184 cases in 2007 and it is feared that the phenomenon has continued to grow.