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Financial Abuse in Afghan Marriages

in Afghan Business

Financial Abuse in Afghan Marriages

This article was originally published on Free Women Writers.

Recently I came across an Afghan couple who seemed to be very much in love. After I got to know the woman I found out that things are not as rosy as they seemed. Every time, she would spend money, her husband would hold her accountable for every penny. She had to get permission for any purchase she wished to make, no matter how big or small. He often reminded her that the money is his, not hers. I don’t think she ever realized that she was experiencing a form of abuse.

Usually when we talk about abuse against women in a marriage, we talk about physical abuse.  However, women around the world are also victims of another type of abuse that is rarely discussed openly since it is insidious and has become normalized in our societies: financial abuse.

Financial abuse is not uncommon in the patriarchal society of Afghanistan; it is indeed a form of weapon used to maintain dominance and control within a household. While the form of abuse may vary from one situation to another, the goal is always to successfully trap a victim in a cycle of dependence and poverty. Most of the financially abused women I encountered in Afghanistan struggled with poverty but were not allowed to seek employment outside the home. This lack of an independent income and a chance for intellectual growth leaves many women vulnerable to physical, emotional and even more financial abuse. The fortunate few who may be allowed to seek employment are also often deprived of the right to choose how to spend their money. In some cases, the husbands take their wives’ salaries. I know individuals who deny women access to money altogether by keeping their money and bank accounts hidden. Women thus have every reason to feel trapped and concerned about their ability to provide for themselves and their children financially should they even consider ending their relationship.

Financial abuse is among the most common reasons behind women staying in abusive relationships or returning to them. While we don’t have data on this from Afghanistan, according to a study by the Centers for Financial Security, 99% of domestic violence cases in the United States involve financial abuse. In Afghanistan, where there are fewer opportunities for economic empowerment for women and insecurity and war remain obstacles for social mobility, it is likely that financial abuse is a major contributor to gendered violence. It is important to recognize signs of financial abuse before you are totally trapped. The common signs of financial abuse are as follows:

  1. Your partner takes charge of money and controls your access to money at home, bank accounts and other assets
  2. You are forbidden to seek employment
  3. You have to account for how you spend your money
  4. You are given the feeling that you are incapable of handling money
  5. Your partner hides money from you
  6. You are not allowed to talk about finances with him
  7. Your partner makes financial or investment decisions that affect you or your children without consulting you
  8. He prevents you from having bank account/bankcards
  9. He withholds physical resources including food, clothes and medications from you
  10. If you have a job or any source of income, you are forced to give him all the money
  11. You are forced to sell your inheritance for him to access
  12. You are given an allowance and you are not allowed to spend more than that

It is important for women who are facing financial abuse to recognize these signs and try to develop an escape plan out of this devastating circumstance. Without intervention, financial abuse does not get better with time, however it can escalate. Skimming money in any way you can and saving little by little until you are able to stand on your own feet is key. Seeking help from a friend or family member if you believe you may be in danger of physical or sexualized violence can be essential for your safety. IF you are facing abuse or want to be able to help a loved one who may be experiencing it, read Free Women Writers’ book You Are not Alone in Persian, Pashtu, or English for more guidance.

Photo Credit: Domesticshelters.org

Tags assigned to this article:
Financial abuseWomen economic empowerment

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