Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 25th, 2020

Afghan Women Bearing the Brunt of Violence

Violence against women has increased in recent days. Within the last three months, a large number of Afghan women have undergone violence across the country. Notwithstanding strides made regarding the rights and freedoms of women in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, violence and sexual discrimination still linger.
Reports say that violence against women – which includes rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage, burning, spraying corrosive acid, wounding, trading women under marriage term, degradation, and verbal harassment –  has surged up within the last three months.
Spogmai Wardak, technical and policy deputy minister at Ministry of Women Affairs, said that 15 cases of violence, including seven murders, against women had been recorded within the past two months. She said the cases included assassinations, forces marriages, court verdict, selling women and children, and gang rapes. Afghanistan’s Attorney General Office confirmed the increasing violence against women.
Honor killings and traditional culture are likely to be the main obstacles before Afghan women. Tribal belts in Afghanistan has been the hotbed of traditional culture that regards women as an inferior creature. Afghan women bear the brunt of violence in tribal areas, where tribal code of conduct is deeply rooted.
The truth is that a backlash against women rights campaigns started back in 2001 after the overthrow of the Taliban. Its first public face was the young TV presenter Shaima Rezayee. Accused of flirting on TV, the music show presenter was shot dead in 2005. The murder was never fully investigated, but rumors abounded that hers was a Taliban murder or maybe an “honor killing”.
Shaima’s killing made it clear: if there was another part that was ready to suppress them. Women soon discovered that the enemies of women’s rights were ubiquitous. Neologisms such as “the Talib in suits” or “the tie-wearing Talib” were coined to sum up encounters with misogynist men dressed up as progressives.
Militancy and honor killing continued threatening the life of Afghan women. The recent assassination of Meena Mangal, a Wolesi Jirga culture and religious affairs commission advisor who had also previously worked for Shamshad and Ariana TV Channels, seemed to be of the same nature. The very motive behind her death is still not clear although two suspects are said to be arrested in connection with the case.
Within the last few months, sexual harassment in Afghanistan made frequent national and international headlines, which was highly outrageous to the public conscience. For example, former officials claimed that a number of individuals were seeking sexual favors in return for promotion within the government’s machinery. Both officials and Afghan women showed a backlash against this claim saying that such claims had to be investigated since it would harm the reputation of women in the society.
To view the social and cultural structure of Afghanistan, women are highly vulnerable to sexual discrimination and violence. They are culturally restricted and their freedoms are curtailed in one way or another. In remote villages, Afghan women are not able to participate in social, political, and economic activities. In short, traditional culture places serious restriction on women’s freedoms. 
Their political activities are, however, restricted by the Taliban insurgents, mainly in tribal areas. The Taliban will target female MPs and candidates whenever possible. Apart from political sphere, women fear to take part in military activities. For instance, female police officers are highly cautious about their lives. They seriously lack mental peace as a result of escalated militancy. In collective life, policewomen are also viewed with negative mindset. Since Afghanistan is a traditional society, policewomen are labelled negatively.
To mitigate violence against women, there are two issues to be considered. First, Afghan clerics have to preach against sexual discrimination and enlighten the dignified position of women in Islam, which does not prevent women from participating in social, political, and economic activities. Although Afghan clerics are targeted by the militants for their moderate approach to social issues and women’s rights, they are responsible to continue so. Clerics have to reform social norms and cultural tradition of the country.
Second, the government has to enforce law and constitution to support the equal rights of men and women. Those who are involved in violation of women’s rights and dignity hav
e to be prosecuted fairly. It should be noted that all citizens are equal before the law and no one is supposed to violate women’s rights with impunity. Thus, all have to respect the rights, freedoms, and dignity of women and let them exercise their rights and liberty without obstacles as stated in Afghan Constitution.