Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Afghan Women – Not Sacrificial Lamb

With the emergence of human rights discourse following the collapse of the Taliban regime, the rights and freedoms of women have been a highly controversial issue. Women’s inclusion and participation in social, political and economic spheres were reiterated. National and international media highlighted violence against women to the extent that women’s strides and active role in collective issues were disregarded.
It is self-explanatory that Afghan women encountered many challenges on the cultural and political front. Afghanistan’s traditional culture had a huge bearing on women and restricted their social and political role on a large scale. Women suffered severely as a result of political upheaval and patriarchal system. Their rights and freedoms were trampled upon and they were treated as pariahs, especially during the Taliban regime. The residents of tribal belts viewed women’s rights from narrow prism of traditional culture, which considered them as inferior creature. In short, Afghan women bore the brunt of restrictive tradition.
In the post-Taliban administration, however, women enjoyed equal rights and freedoms with men, which paved the ground for their social and political activities. They largely engaged in political arenas holding high positions. Despite cultural barriers, women have been playing active role in the community.
It is believed that gender discrimination has been mitigated to a great extent, mainly in large cities, and women are respected in public. International community and non-government organizations implemented many empowerment programs for women and paved the ground for their education and employment. Currently, a large number of Afghan girls get higher education abroad. Similarly, when a male and female are candidates for a job, especially in non-government organizations, female is prioritized.
Notwithstanding women’s strides within the past years, negative reports are dominant. In its recent report, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that violence against women had increased eight percent over the last seven months. The violence includes sexual abuse, economically related violence, and verbal or psychological abuse.
A part of violence is believed to be related to traditional culture, which holds strong sway in tribal belts. The involvement of the Taliban militants in violence against women is undeniable in their dominated areas since women were punished in desert courts. They still exercise harsh ideology towards women and create sensitivity regarding women’s rights, liberty and human rights discourse as well as international organizations.
Another part of violence belongs to the vulnerability of women. That is, women are prone to sexual abuse and violence in many parts of the world. For example, sexual harassment and violence against women occur not only in Afghanistan but also in the United States, India, Pakistan, etc. Hence, part of a violence has nothing to do with social or political structure rather it is a criminal issue. To this end, one has not to shed crocodile tears for Afghan women and stop exaggerating this issue.
Meanwhile, national media should keep a balance in their reporting about women’s issue. The media should also cover women’s progress and their active and constructive role in social and political spheres. Overstating the negative aspect of women’s issue will generate a misconception and consternation for the public. Reducing Afghanistan to a dystopian world for women is a false narrative to be avoided.
In Afghanistan, analyses regarding women are mostly based on negative presumptions. Women’s achievements and progress hardly ever make the news. It is believed that some individuals and organizations capitalize on the issue of violence against women in Afghanistan. For example, in Afghanistan, some individuals simply post some issues about women on social media and narrate their sad stories to be recognized as civil rights activists or women activists.
Constitutionally, women and men have equal rights and there is no room for gender discrimination. The constitution of Afghanistan, which endorses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, recognizes women’s inherent rights and dignity.
Enjoying the post-Taliban freedom, a young girl Zahra Elham won the Afghan Star title last year, which shows that Afghan girls and women participate in reality television show competition every year.
Democratic discourses and issues regarding women’s rights and liberties in the post-Taliban administration are being embedded in the culture of Afghanistan and a large number of people respect women and their rights. If parochial mindset holds sway in Afghanistan, the culture of respect for women also prevails. Women have been empowered in the country and they are able to raise their voice in case of any injustice taking place against them.