Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Concern over Women’s Rights

To support Afghan women, Laura Bush, a former American first lady, has called for a continued military presence in the male-dominated areas. In an interview with a media outlet on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival, she remarked withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan as “we would have to start all over again” in Afghanistan. Women would lose the ground they have gained since the 2001 US invasion of the country, she argued. “The Taliban had been there and we just had not paid any attention. The plight of the women there was a shock to American women.”
In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, women played a significant role in social, political, cultural and educational aspects. They engaged in presidential and parliamentary campaigns with the establishment of a democratic country based on the Constitution. Despite feeling inferior and growing in a traditional structure and patriarchal society, mainly during the Taliban’s regime, Afghan women transcended all the barriers which hampered their progress and curtailed their legal freedoms. They denied being tradition-bound and subject to patriarchal culture imposed on them and their past generations on the basis of their sex.
Some facts are indisputable. Afghan girls and women suffered greatly under traditional customs. Their role was restricted within the four walls and they were considered as a pariah, especially in remote areas where traditional mindsets held strong sway. They suffered physical and mental tortures in one way or another. For instance, when a girl denied living with a man of her parents’ choice under the same roof, she was considered brazen and deserved to be punished in a severe way. After all, if she dared elope with a man of her own choice, she was deemed a disgrace for her family and would be stoned to death – such stories are no more outdated but repeated every once in a while in tribal belt. A girl was flagellated last year in a desert court and Rokhshana, a young girl, was stoned in Ghor province. Similarly, a girl named Aziz Gul was reportedly killed, about three weeks ago, by her family in Ghor province for eloping with a man of her choice – which prompted the civil society activists to raise their concern and said that the graph of violence had increased in Ghor. The activists added that the violators of women’s rights are at large and alleged that the government neglected women’s rights in that province. Hence, women are still left at the mercy of conservative customs.
In a radical attitude, women’s rights are tailored by personal taste and then colored with a religious brush. In other words, religious extremists impose their own ideas on religion regarding women’s rights and then practice upon their self-styled methods. Their interpretations are sheer stereotype. The Taliban and members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) treat women out of bias, carnal desire and ignorance and their ill-mannered treatment has nothing to do with religion. Afghan women suffered seriously under the Taliban. Claiming to establish Islamic caliphate, the Taliban trampled upon the rights and dignity of women to a great extent. They were subject to men’s desire and as malleable to their husbands as salves to their masters. Taking part in social, cultural and political activities was taboo for women. In areas under their control, the Taliban issued edicts which forbade women from being educated; girls were forced to leave schools and colleges. Those who wished to leave their home to go shopping had to be accompanied by a male relative, and were required to wear the burqa. Those who appeared to disobey were publicly beaten.
In 2001, Laura Bush in a radio address condemned the Taliban’s brutality to women. She still seeks to uphold the rights of Afghan women, at least by words. Her concerns reflected in her words are appreciable and have to be taken serious. For continuing their social and political activities, Afghan women need a secure and violent-free society.
Although there are still some barriers ahead of women’s progress and their rights and freedoms are still at stake, the nascent democracy led to great changes. On the basis of the Constitution, which was approved in 2004, men and women are equal before the law and have the same rights and responsibilities. Constitutionally, discriminating women on the basis of her sex is not acceptable. Moreover, unlike the traditional customs, “crime is a personal act” and girls are not supposed to sacrifice their lives, such as being exchanged as blood-money, for a crime committed by their brothers (in tribal belt, it was rife that when a boy raped a girl, his sister had to marry a man of the victim’s family). Additionally, desert court is forbidden based on article 27 which states, “No one shall be punished without the decision of an authoritative court taken in accordance with the provisions of the law, promulgated prior to commitment of the offense.”

It is feared that with the withdrawal of US forces and escalation of militancy, the investments on women’s rights and freedoms will be in vain. Furthermore, it should be noted that women will encounter more challenges if democracy declines. Therefore, the government has to uphold the democratic system not only through combating insurgency but also enforcing the law to protect women’s rights.