Statistics from Afghanistan's interior ministry indicate that the number of women and girls imprisoned for "moral crimes" had risen to about 600 in May 2013 from 400 in October 2011 - a 50 percent rise.
Since October 2011, there has been an almost 30 percent increase overall in the number of women and girls imprisoned in prisons and juvenile detention facilities.
"Four years after the adoption of a law on violence against women and 12 years after Taliban rule, women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence and rape," said Brad Adams at Human Rights Watch.
"The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims."
These "moral crimes" usually involve flight from unlawful forced marriages or domestic violence.
Women and girls imprisoned on "moral crimes" charges and interviewed by Human Rights Watch described abuses including forced and underage marriage below age 16, beatings, stabbings, burnings, rapes, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and threats of "honour killing".
Virtually none of the cases had led even to an investigation of the abuse, let alone prosecution or punishment.
Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government and its international partners to take urgent steps to end the menace.