Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, November 18th, 2019

Afghan Women Do not Want to Backtrack

Despite all social and cultural barriers, Afghan women have made great strides in the post-Taliban administration. They played an active role in advocating their rights and freedoms and ending sexual discrimination, which still holds strong sway across the country, mainly in the tribal belts.
Although gender discrimination has no room in Afghan Constitution, which officially recognizes the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still exercised in Afghan community and violence against women is reported frequently. Women still encounter cultural obstacles. However, it is believed that with the public campaign against gender discrimination, in which women played a key role, and women’s participation in social, political, cultural, and economic spheres, the level of negative sensitivity towards women has decreased to a great extent. Unlike the past, the public have accepted the undeniably significant role of women in the community.
In large cities, Afghan women barely encounter any cultural obstacles to hamper them from social, political, or economic activities. For example, women study and teach at schools and universities, work in cultural institutions and government administrations, engage in business, work as journalists and civil activists, and they are judges, MPs, ministers, ambassadors, governors, members of High Peace Councils and civil society, etc.
Including the judicial systems and Afghan constitution, there have been many legal and social institutions advocating the rights and freedoms of women. The Independent Human Rights Commission, established following the Bonn Conference, played a very essential role in women’s rights advocacy. Afghan women now value their achievements and seek not to backtrack at any costs.
Despite all the aforementioned issues, women also suffered violence. 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, though 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 return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Afghan women would backtrack and again fall victim to violence and radical attitude, which were exercised during the Taliban’s regime. Since there is lack of trust between Afghans and the Taliban, the international community has to observe the agreement and ensure it not to be violated in case of being signed between the Taliban and the US delegates.