Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Gender Discrimination and Sexual Scandal Outrageous to Afghan Nation

Sexual discrimination and violence against women are widespread in Afghanistan and make the headlines in national and international media every so often. Although the rights and freedoms of men and women are constitutionally equal, women fall victim to gender discrimination in domestic and collective life, mainly as a result of deep-seated parochial mindset and tribal tradition as well as presence of the militant fighters, who exercise misogynistic view.
Afghan women are likely to suffer in social and political arenas on the basis of their gender. Their rights, liberty, and dignity are violated in one way or another. For instance, they are treated as pariahs not only by radical individuals and militant fighters, but also discriminated in the government’s machinery. Recently, Habibullah Ahmadzai, a former senior advisor to President Ghani, has claimed that some Afghan officials were involved in sexual scandal, exchanging sexual favors for government posts. Later, Mariam Wardak, a former consultant to Ghani’s former national security adviser, confirmed Ahmadzai’s allegation during an interview with an Indian news channel saying that “the issues he [Ahmadzai] brought up and highlighted reflect reality”.
However, Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman to Ghani, called Ahmadzai’s allegations “false and baseless” adding that the issue would be investigated and the result would be shared with the public. Chakhansuri stated, “Ahmadzai’s allegations are insult to the women who have sacrificed for so long to reach decision-making levels. No one will be allowed to harm the honor of Afghan women”.
Afghan officials, including CEO Abdullah Abdullah, have called for an investigation into the allegations.
The recent alleged sexual abuse is not the first high-profile case in Afghanistan, which ranked 168th out of 189 countries in the United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index. Last year, five officials with Afghanistan’s soccer federation, including its president Keramuddin Keram, were suspended after female soccer players claimed they were sexually assaulted. Many of the allegations regarding the sexual abuse of female soccer players came from Khalida Popal, a former captain of the Afghan women’s national football team who also served as its program director. During an interview with BBC, Khalida said she had witnessed widespread physical and sexual abuse of girls and young women by coaches and federation officials. She had heard girls’ complaint about a range of abuse, from rape to sexual touching and harassment.
In 2017, a graphic video of an Afghan air force colonel sexually exploiting a young woman went viral. In the same year, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that some widows of Afghan National Security Force members killed in action were forced to perform sexual favors for officials before they could obtain pension benefits.
Meanwhile, the radical groups, mainly the Taliban militants, add to the violence against women and their suffering. Few days back, the Taliban militants had reportedly killed a man and woman in public in Ghor province for love affairs. Meanwhile, a video footage released on social media about a month ago showed the black-robed Taliban lashing two women in desert courts. The Taliban conduct desert courts – where women are being lashed or shot – in their dominated areas repeatedly, which is against Afghan Constitution.
In spite of all the aforementioned facts, one cannot deny the great strides made by Afghan women in the post-Taliban Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the challenges Afghan women encounter on daily basis, women also hold high political positions. That is, Afghan women are widely engaged in social, political, and economic activities without any serious challenge. They serve as MP, judge, minister, adviser, ambassador, etc.
To view Afghan Constitution, both men and women have equal rights and freedoms. Women are supported legally to participate in all social, political, and economic activities and could run for presidential election regardless of their gender. In short, there is no legal barrier before Afghan women to take part in social activities similar to their male counterparts.
Overall, violence against women in general and the recent allegations of sexual scandal in particular are highly outrageous. Afghan government has to investigate the issue thoroughly and fairly and bring the perpetrators to justice. Moreover, the government must enforce the law to protect the rights, freedoms, and dignity of all citizens regardless of their gender. Reports about violence against women and sexual discrimination have to be taken serious so that Afghan women could be able to exercise their rights and freedoms freely, as it is stated in the constitution.