The Taliban promised to respect the rights achieved by women after the overthrow of the Islamic Emirate in 2001. A year later, it is now clear that all these commitments have fallen on deaf ears and UN Women accuses the current rulers of “meticulously” constructing “policies of inequality” that marginalize half of the population.
The executive director of this agency, Sima Bahous, perceives a “daily and continuous” deterioration of the Human Rights of women and girls, both in the public and even in the private sphere. There are no women in the Taliban cabinet, where ‘hard-line’ men continue to rule and adopt laws to suit themselves.
“It has been a year of increasing disrespect for (women’s) right to live their lives as free and equal, denying them the opportunity to earn a living, access health care and education, and escape situations of violence,” says Bahous on the first anniversary of the Taliban’s rise to power.
In “just a few months,” she adds, the radicals wiped out decades of progress, something regularly recalled by women’s groups who continue to take to the streets to demand their rights despite threats from the current rulers. On Saturday, the Taliban dispersed a protest in Kabul involving about 40 women, according to the BBC.
Women have suffered setbacks in the workplace, but also in education, to the point that Afghanistan is, as of today, the only country in the world that prevents girls from accessing secondary education. Some 3.4 million girls and adolescents are out of the education system, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Mariya, 16, claims in statements to UNICEF her “right” to return to class and finish the three years she has left in secondary school. “Some of my friends and classmates are suffering from depression,” says the young woman, who recognizes that the gender gap has widened under the Taliban.
The Taliban have also issued orders forcing women to cover their faces in public or to always move under the surveillance of a male ‘guardian’, which behind closed doors can translate into increased violence and the inability of victims of gender-based violence to seek help.
The United Nations fears that this may also lead to an increase in forced marriages, in a context where the proportion of girls who marry before the age of 18 is already around 28 percent.
“We must continue to raise the voices of Afghan women and girls who fight every day for their rights. Their struggle is our struggle. What happens to them is a global responsibility,” says Bahous, who calls on the Taliban to consider the marginalization of women as a national “self-sabotage.”
Without the full participation of women, she warns, “there is little chance of achieving lasting peace, stability and economic development,” in a context in which more than 24 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian aid. Afghanistan is considered one of the biggest crises in the world.