Five Afghan men have been hanged for the gang rape of four women amidst UN and human rights groups criticising the trial and calling for the new president, Ashraf Ghani, to stay the executions. In August, the armed gang, wearing police uniforms, stopped a convoy of cars, tied up the men in the group,, raped four of the women and stole their valuables. The trial lasted only a few hours with allegations that the suspects confessed to under torture. The then president, Hamid Karzai, signed their death sentences last week, before the trials were concluded.

This seems to be the decade of street justice, something International Human Rights groups are loathe to accept now that the effects are staring them in the face. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been rightly raising a ruckus about these sham proceedings, yet they are missing out on the momentum with which the proceedings happened; that Afghanistan is not a “democracy” and that the government is sending out a message. This is politics, not law. The trial was a nationally televised trial, with rallies outside the court calling for the death penalties. When the death sentence was given, applause erupted inside the courtroom. The whole situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth, even though the rape victims are fully sympathised with. What might be one step forward for the protection of women, might be a step back for the rule of law with this precedent of show trials being set in a nascent democracy.

What this points to is that the authorities in Afghanistan are serious about stamping out lawlessness. The crime has become a symbol of the violence that women face in Afghanistan, despite reforms since the Taliban regime fell in 2001. Yet, this is not seen as a feminist victory due to its wobbly standing in law. Was legal justice served? Were these the real rapists? We wont ever know. Would the same sort of justice have been meted out in Pakistan had the media taken notice of it? Pakistan has its own brand of street justice; do we have such events stored in our future?