6 September 2022 |
Many will say… “It was only a matter of time.” Only a matter of time before the Taliban reversed twenty years of progress for women and girls in Afghanistan. Only a matter of time before the schools were closed. Only a matter of time before women were banned from careers. Only a matter of time before the burqa was back. There was little room for doubt about what would happen if Afghanistan fell under Taliban rule again – especially with regard to the lives of women and girls.
In December 2021, the Taliban restricted the freedom of movement by prohibiting women from taking long-distance road trips on their own and, required them to have a male guardian accompany them for trips more than forty-five miles. Drivers cannot transport women without veils. Many women have complained that they have been left on the side of the road because they were not wearing a covering. According to the spokesperson for vice and virtue, it is for the women and girls’ protection. But it is much more than that.
Women and girls are disproportionally affected. In households where women were the sole providers, Taliban policies have excluded the women from working – meaning, that many households no longer have any income coming in. No ability to buy food, and no access to healthcare. According to the World Food Program, every single household headed by females faces insufficient food consumption. Even in cases where the women are permitted to work, they are unable to meet the Taliban’s demands of being escorted by a male guardian – especially all day during working hours. Further, Taliban restrictions on male healthcare professionals treating women reduce women’s access to services.
What is happening in Afghanistan is nothing short of gender apartheid. Gender apartheid is economic and social sexual discrimination, targeting individuals because of their gender or sex. In this case, the Taliban condemns women and girls to a separate and subservient sub existence, while elevating males to the status of guardians of female virtue. This is not only disempowering to women and girls, but it can also result in severe physical and mental harm.
Although another December decree regarding a woman’s right to marriage choice, also stated that women are not property and should not be considered as such, each decree that has followed since has been more restrictive to women and girls, suggesting the opposite is true.
The Taliban has long restricted clothing for females, so the fact that it has criminalized women and girls’ failure to wear a face-covering in public once again, should come as no surprise. The ministry of vice and virtue requires all Afghan women to wear a hijab. However, the latest edicts go a step further and suggest that the best hijab is the blue-colored Afghan chadori burqa, which is a full-bodied veil, with a small grille for the eyes to see through. It is important to note that in most cities, women wear a headscarf to cover only their hair… no burqa, and no full-body covering. The ministry added that any full-body covering that is not too tight to reveal the shape of the body or too sheer to reveal the body, would be acceptable. In short, the Taliban want women covered from head to toe.
The new decree is the latest in a series of edicts restricting women and girls, enforced since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Punishment of offending women would not only impact females but also include their male guardians. The first offense is a warning, the second offense is a fine and three days’ imprisonment. Offenders who work for the government would be terminated.
These decrees further sexualize women and reduce their identities to clothing – a burqa. Muslim men want women to cover to prevent men from being tempted and to keep them from behaving immorally. Perhaps the men should wear a covering and stop looking at women if they are that lustful and have so little self-control. The idea that it is the female’s fault if the male looks, is ridiculous. Women and girls can value their religion and faithfully practice its teachings, and at the same time, be educated, have careers, be in public and wear whatever fashionable attire they choose. This idea that one is exclusive of the other, is absurd.
Early promises by the Taliban indicated that women and girls would continue to have the right to education. However, in March, on the first day of school, the girls in secondary school were told to go home and the schools were closed. Closing the schools has increased the risk of more child marriages. Worse still, reports from humanitarian organizations on the ground indicate that many families have resorted to selling their daughters into marriage to be able to buy food and repay debts.
Even as the power dynamic shifted, women and girls in Afghanistan, and human rights organizations insisted that the international community make women and girls’ rights a sticking point and non-negotiable in the diplomacy process with the Taliban. The Taliban wants to be recognized as the leader of Afghanistan – to be granted that, they must not be allowed to shun half of the population of the country. More should have been done before the transition of power. It was not.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to the Taliban leadership to recognize that “no country can thrive while denying the rights of half its population.” He urged the Taliban to reconsider and protect the fundamental human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.
Twenty years of progress were wiped away overnight. Everything that is happening now in Afghanistan was predicted ahead of time. It is no surprise that the Taliban turned the clock back two decades once they took control. But it is a surprise that the leaders in the international community, who had the power to act and did not, still do not recognize the urgency of the situation. #ThinkingOutLoud #Afghanistan #WomensRights #Taliban #GenderApartheid
With gratitude… Lara
Photo Credit: United Nations Photo – Women on the Job in Afghanistan
6 September 2022 |