Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Has the Status of Women Changed in Afghanistan?

Human society is a changing phenomenon. The changes in it are inevitable and are bound to occur. Therefore, those who are really interested to achieve something positive from these changes have to understand the nature of these changes and try to divert them towards better destinations instead of trying to block their ways.
Afghan society is also one of the societies in the world and it has to go through the process of change. Nevertheless, mostly the changes have been negative in Afghan society and these changes have made Afghan people suffer to a large extent, the changes have been there and they will be there as long as Afghan society exists and the people live in it. Yet these changes have influenced everyone, the weaker strata of society, especially women; have been largely influenced by them.    
The changes in Afghan society must be analyzed from two perspectives. The first one must be analyzed from within Afghan society, keeping in consideration the social changes that occur with the interactions and development within the social institutions and other actors. Such a perspective depicts that Afghanistan is a tribal society with a slow pace of changes. The traditional culture and norms and values are strict and slow to change. Moreover, education, that can be a source of change, has not been able to penetrate Afghan society properly. Most of the rural areas still do not have schools and proper education. In addition, the education that is being provided contains obsolete curriculum that does not help much in changing the mentality of the people and thus the society as a whole. This slow pace of changes within Afghan society does not help much in changing the position of women. They, to a large extent, are still suffering from the discriminatory rules and regulations and social behaviour.
Extremist and strict religious beliefs and practices have also made the changes less frequent. Strengthened by extremist religious institutions, these beliefs and practices have no positive approach towards changes and consider them evil. They also support the patriarchal setup and keep the discrimination against women intact and even invigorate it.
The political changes are also very slow as the political setups, in most of the areas, are non-existent. The democracy has not been able to reach to grass root level as local bodies are not chosen through any sort of election. The setup, therefore, is authoritative and dominated by tribal lords and extremist religious leaders, who do not welcome the positive changes at all.
The other perspective of changes in Afghan society must be understood in its relations with regional and international community and actors. The involvement of international community has strived to impose liberal and democratic changes in Afghan society. Though, it has been successful to a certain extent, the real changes are yet to be seen. Afghanistan is now recognized as a democratic country. It has had its two regular elections. There are considerations and emphasize on the rights of minority, women and other weaker strata of the society in the constitution and many other developments have been made as well; however, they are prevalent only in the major cities while the rural areas have not yet seen their impacts.
The regional countries on the other hand have always strived to promote and gain their interests in Afghanistan. They have not been supportive enough in bringing about long-lasting changes in Afghanistan.
Another important factor to consider regarding the nature of changes that may occur in the times to come in Afghanistan’s socio-political scenario is the ongoing transition period. As the Afghan government seems to strike a deal with Taliban militants, there may by many compromises in the deal that may lead the society towards further religious extremism and backwardness.
The changes so far made and occurred and the ones that may follow do not seem to have much consideration regarding the rights of women and gender balance. Women have been discriminated and they may further be influenced by the future changes to a large extent as they are one of the weaker strata and weaker strata are influenced by transitions and instabilities to a large extent.  
Moreover, women fear the return of Taliban-like era and fear that all the developments made for improvement of the status of women may be lost unless wise decisions are made. In the political bargain with Taliban for the peace process, it is possible that government may make certain compromises among which the law regarding the rights of women may suffer further.  
Therefore, it is really necessary to understand the nature of mentioned changes and try to direct the efforts of the international community and regional players and also of the Afghan government itself in bringing about real changes in Afghan society and keep the consideration for better values through the changes that may occur. The social psychology of Afghan people in this regard can also make a big difference; therefore, efforts must be to bring about considerable changes in that regard so that people are able to see women, their role and their status with a different perspective. This way it would be possible to see the status and role of Afghan women rising in the society.