Nightly News | December 10, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: Now to an act of desperation by a woman faced with an impossible choice, spend the next dozen years in prison or agree to marry the man who raped her in exchange for her freedom. It happened in Afghanistan and we hear her story now from NBC 's Atia Abawi .
ATIA ABAWI reporting: Nineteen-year-old Gulnaz is a prisoner, behind bars,. entrapped in a society that still treats women as second-class citizens. She says she was raped by her cousin's husband. She went to the police to seek justice. Instead, she was charged with adultery and locked up.
ABAWI: 'I don't know why they put me in jail,' she says. Her daughter, Mushgan , a product of the rape, was born on her prison cell floor. Initially sentenced to two years, she appealed and lost. Her sentence increased to 12 years unless she agreed to marry the man she says raped her. American lawyer Kimberley Motley took the case and just last week helped Gulnaz gain a presidential pardon.
Ms. KIMBERLEY MOTLEY: It definitely is putting the attorney general's office, the Supreme Court , and also others that are working within this justice system sort of on notice.
ABAWI: Gulnaz is now counting the days until her release. The life that Gulnaz is leaving behind is sharing a prison room with eight other female prisoners as well as several very young children. About 90 percent of Afghan women suffer some sort of domestic abuse, according to one UN estimate. A woman's awareness program is running ads like this one on Afghan television , urging women to stand up and seek help. But Gulnaz 's case is a reminder of where Afghan women really stand.
Ms. HEATHER BARR (Human Rights Watch Afghanistan): These cases send a message to all Afghan women that there isn't any help available to them and the consequences of seeking help are likely to be further victimization.
ABAWI: As for Gulnaz herself, there is no happy ending. She has decided she has no choice but to marry her rapist.
ABAWI: 'I am obliged to marry him, even though I can't look at him,' she says. Gulnaz and her daughter will soon leave this prison for another, still shackled by the traditions of an ancient tribal culture. Atia Abawi, NBC News, Kabul.