The Unjust Oppression of Afghan Women

June 30, 2023 | Akshaya Aalla

The Taliban seized control of the Afghan government on Aug. 15, 2021. The very same day, the world witnessed 20 years of progress for women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan be erased.

Under the Taliban, women living in Afghanistan lead highly restricted lifestyles. The recent changes to Afghanistan law have made it challenging for women and girls to carry out their daily routines. They constantly live in fear due to the unjust conditions they have been placed in. 

The origin of activism for women’s rights in Afghanistan began in 2002, when three rival factions that had been fighting over the territory of Mazar signed a U.N. backed agreement. This agreement established a 600-person security force for the city. Following this, women and girls gained greater freedom to participate in public life and access to education, health care, and employment. That year, Afghan women celebrated International Women’s Day, filled with hope for an improved quality of life and brighter future. 

In the modern day, the Taliban have  squashed the hope of equality with strict laws that oppress women and girls, as well as enforcing a strict Islamic regime. 

The freedom of Afghan women has been heavily curtailed, with restrictions on their movement, education and employment. Women are no longer permitted to obtain a secondary and tertiary education, effectively making Afghanistan the only country where this is the  norm. 

The Taliban fully support child marriage after the age of 15, as it is permitted under the Shia Personal law effectively leading to non-consensual marriages and pregnancies for adolescent girls. 

Additionally, women have been banned from entering amusement parks, public baths, gyms and sports clubs entirely. They have also been completely excluded from public offices and the judiciary system. Afghanistan’s female population is required to adhere to a strict dress code and are not permitted to travel more than 75 kilometers without a 'mahram', a direct male relative who acts as a chaperone. 

The Taliban have harsh punishments for those who do not follow their rules; women face forcible detainment for appearing in public without a mahram as well as physical and psychological torture. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, whose enforcers are referred to as muttawa or mutaween (pl.) are tasked with enforcing conservative Islamic values. They are appointed by the government as seen fit. 

Further, the Taliban has also obstructed the right to employment for Afghani women. Funding for the Sehatmandi system, the backbone of the Afghan health sector, has been cut off. This only adds to the crisis in Afghanistan, as the long distances to hospitals already dissuade women from prioritizing healthcare. 

Despite these innumerable challenges, Afghan women have taken action to be noticed, heard and respected by the world by voicing their oppression through the media and other international outlets.

Women-led journalism has been a great source for both internal and international awareness on the situation. Several stories of resilience and courage only inspire the next generation of women, in Afghanistan and around the world, to press on with their fight for equality.

Countries around the world have contributed to returning freedom to Afghan women and girls. Not only does the UN acknowledge the atrocities committed in Afghanistan and aim to aid Afghan women, but groups like Women for Afghan Women (AWA). devote themselves to it. 

It is imperative to acknowledge injustices Afghan women and girls face daily, and it’s just as crucial to push for urgency on aiding those who have faced these injustices. 

Support the work of female activists such as Fawzia Koofi, Habiba Sarabi, and Maryem Rayed, who have given their lives to combating violence with peace and fight for change in Afghanistan everyday. Additionally, consider donating to advocacy groups that work to provide resources to Afghan women and spread awareness about the dangers these women face daily. 

As we acknowledge the situation and ongoing struggles Afghan women have been forced to endure, we must commit to amplifying their voices, demand justice, and work to provide resources in order for Afghan women to live in their home safely, fearlessly, and free. 

Image Credit: Reuters