Signing Away Rights Khaled Hosseini’s Novel
A Thousand Splendid Suns, portrays the struggles of two women living under Taliban law in Afghanistan. Many thousands of women are restricted to their homes because the Taliban permits them from contributing to society, seeking education, or even leaving their property without a male relative present. Because women continue to face this oppression, 97% of women in the country show symptoms of depression (Woolf Internet). Women in Afghanistan are prohibited from having the right to make their own decisions because of gender discrimination.
In the book, Mariam faced ongoing gender discrimination, but two events mirrored each other and portrayed huge significance. When Mariam was forced to marry Rasheed, she needed to sign a contract, just as she did before her execution, twenty seven years later. But what does one’s signature symbolize? It symbolizes their approval to whatever is written in the document. Mariam was sent off to Rasheed against her will. “But I’ve seen nine-year-old girls given to men twenty years older than your suitor, Mariam. We all have. What are you, fifteen? That’s a good, solid marrying age for a girl,” (pg. 4). This is an example of a problem that practically all women in Afghanistan face because they have no rights and are treated as prizes to be given away. Twenty seven years later, Mariam killed Rasheed in order to defend Laila and was sent to prison. “…Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always,” (pg. 323). Mariam recalled Nana’s wisdom as she awaited her execution. This quote shows that women are evidentally inferior to men in the Afganistan society and will be accused of crimes that they did or did not do regardless.
Mariam stayed mute during both events because she knew that her protests would not be heard, and she’d be overruled by the Mullah. These events symbolize the injustice that women face, but have to bear because society cannot be changed according to their whim. The things that happened to Mariam and Laila were not unusual events. Having women forced to do things against their will was a common occurrence in Afghanistan. “87% of women are illiterate and only 30% of women in Afghanistan have access to education,” (Taylor Internet).
These startling statistics show that women are not valued as much as men are and are one of the reasons why they are taken advantage of. “Seventy to eighty percent of women face forced marriages, and as a result, one in every three Afghan women experience physical, psychological, or sexual violence, (Taylor Internet)”. Looking at these facts, women do not have a choice about almost anything. The small percent of women who do have rights to certain things in Afghanistan are only getting the average rights that other women, who live in more developed areas of the world, usually get all the time.
This is all because women are not considered to be equal to men and because they are treated differently, the average life expectancy for a woman in Afghanistan is only 44 years (Taylor Internet). Although Afghanistan is known for its cruel Taliban laws, few changes have been welcomed. Hamid Kurzai, the Afghanistan president, stated, “Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created, (Boone Internet). ” Women are now allowed to refuse sex from their husband if she is sick or has a reasonable excuse.
Women are also allowed to leave the home without permission when there is an emergency forcing her to do so. With that statement, he passed a new law that gives women slightly more freedom, but still to an unreasonable extent. To this day, Afghanistan women are still portrayed as unequal and inferior just as Mariam and Laila were treated in the book. When Mariam signed the contracts twice in the book, once to Rasheed and again when she accepted her execution, she gave away her life and all the unjust rights that she had along with it.
Practically all women residing in Afghanistan have to deal with these situations on a daily basis because they are prohibited to make their own decisions due to being of ‘inferior’ female gender. On a side note, Taliban law has been weakening throughout the years. Campaigns and protests against the restrictions on women, although not fully successful, are helping women in Afghanistan a little more every day and give them hope of freedom. -Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, May 22, 2007 Human’s Rights Watch, Afghanistan: New Law Threatens Women’s Freedom, Human’s Rights Watch, April 14, 2009, http://www. hrw. org/news/2009/04/14/afghanistan-new-law-threatens-women-s-freedom -Rupert Taylor, Women’s Rights Abused In Afghanistan, Middle Eastern Affairs, April 20, 2009, http://rupert-taylor. suite101. com/womens-rights-abused-in-afghanistan-a111098 -Jon Boone, ‘Worse Than The Taliban’ –New Law Rolls Back Rights For Afghan Women’ , World News, March 30, 2009, http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2009/mar/31/hamid-karzai-afghanistan-law