Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Controversy over Women’s Rights and Freedoms Continues

The rights and freedoms of women have been a highly controversial subjects during Afghan kings, communist regimes, Mujahidin, and the Taliban regime. Afghan women have been vulnerable to social and political changes and their rights have passed many ups and downs with the changes of regimes. In the post-Taliban Afghanistan, with the establishment of nascent democracy, women’s rights and dignity are still debated hotly.
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women have made significant advances in rights, with millions of girls attending schools and women holding high political posts within the government. But with the steady withdrawal of foreign forces and the Taliban insurgency still resilient, there are growing fears the gains will be lost. The peace talks between the Taliban and their US and Afghan interlocutors have compounded the fear since there are not enough seats around the table for women’s representatives.
The history of Afghan women’s struggle for social recognition and equality chronicles Afghanistan’s physical and cultural devastation. Following the Soviet Invasion (1979-89), the Afghan Civil War (1994-96) and the Taliban regime (1996-2001), women’s access to education, security and jobs has been minimal. Today, in the post-Taliban era, both the Western “liberation” and religious fundamentalism are likely to impose their own values on Afghan society as political models. Westernization, with regards to gender equality, does not take into account the traditional concept of family in Islamic or Afghan culture and tends to negotiate the rights of Afghan women outside their community and family. However, religious fundamentalism views the rights and freedoms of women from a narrow lens and tend to hamper women’s advancement in social, political, and cultural aspects. Worst of all, religious fundamentalists target women to curtail their freedoms and restrict their rights. They seek to narrow the environment for the women’s activities through posing threat to their lives.
Despite the progress made, women’s struggle for civic and human rights still has a long way to go. Four decades of war and conflict have left many Afghans both eager for change and afraid of it. There are still many instances of ordinary women experiencing domestic violence, being sexually abused, or being forced into marriage. Women in senior leadership roles – such as in parliament or the police – are still being targeted. It is said that some men feel threatened by the presence of women in senior positions. These men see women’s rights as the “westernization” of Afghan culture.
In traditional society like Afghanistan, women’s freedoms and social role are restricted within the cultural frames. In another item, women encounter manifold socio-cultural barriers to take active role in social issues. A woman is considered as a productive creature to give birth and to feed and train her children.
Hillary Clinton once said, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.” She adds, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.”
It is believed that if women are not respected in a society and their rights and freedoms are not protected, that society will be embroiled in serious challenges and its progress will be extremely slow. It is because the half population of a society is not active or playing its role due to social or cultural obstacles. For example, if Afghan women had had the opportunity to play their role within all the past years, Afghanistan would have been an affluent and advanced society.
If Afghan government seeks to support democracy, it has to advocate the rights and freedoms of both men and women and put an end to gender discrimination. The voice of women have to be heard as their male counterparts and their rights and freedoms have to be safeguarded.
Afghan women also need to struggle for their rights and freedoms. They have to raise their voice against injustice, sexual discrimination and violation of their rights and freedoms and seek to play their role actively and constructively. They have to break the obstacles which hamper their social, cultural, and political activities and make their voice heard.
In short, Afghan society will be democratic if both men and women could exercise their rights and freedoms equally and women could not feel themselves as second class citizens.