Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 25th, 2020

Vulnerability of Afghan Women

Following the collapse of the Taliban’s regime, Afghan women heaved a sigh of relief for being liberated from radical approach and being entitled equally to men on the basis of Constitution. But cultural restrictions, deeply embedded in Afghan society, still curtail the freedoms of women across the country.
To view the status of women from legal perspective, there is no room for discrimination against women and both genders are equal in the eye of law. Afghan constitution advocates the rights, liberties and dignity of women similar to that of men as it states in Article 22, “Any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law.”
Above all, the Constitution recognizes the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) both of which deem men and women equal. UDHR states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and considered everyone to have equal rights and freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, etc.”
Notwithstanding a democratic constitution, Afghan women still suffer in one way or the other. It is self-evident that gender discrimination and violence against women continue unabated in individual and collective life in Afghanistan. Violence against women makes the headline in national media in recent days. They are raped, tortured and killed in the worst possible way simply for being born female.
There are mainly three reasons behind the ongoing violence and discrimination against Afghan women despite the fact that such practices are in conflict to law and religious tenets. First, cultural restrictions especially in tribal belts take their toll on women. In some areas of Afghanistan, the strict rules of tribal councils and Taliban’s regime have led to disastrous consequences and distorted their moderate culture. That is, despite democratic law, women are still treated as pariahs and they are discriminated on the grounds of their sex. In tribal belts, women are supposed to stay within the four walls and they are not allowed to take part in social, cultural, political or economic activities. Hence, a relatively radical mindset still holds sway in triable areas of the country.
Second, the Taliban militants and other terrorist networks pose serious threat to women’s rights and freedoms and hamper their social and political activities. In restive provinces, women are not able to exercise their rights and freedoms for being threatened by militant fighters. So, insecurity is also conducive to women’s vulnerability.
Lack of law enforcement is the third reason behind the violation of women’s rights. Although men and women are equal constitutionally, they are still harassed sexually in work places and on streets. Even policewomen complain about sexual harassment take place by their male counterparts, which indicates that police officers, who are supposed to safeguard the rights of people and ensure the enforcement of law, trample upon the rights of people and break the law.
To advocate the rights of citizens regardless of their gender, it is not enough to simply inscribe a set of rules on pieces of paper, but to exert the rule properly. If the law-enforcers change into law-breakers, then how it will be possible to protect citizens’ rights?  Enforcing law is the first prerequisite for protecting the inherent and inviolable rights and freedoms of men and women.
Meanwhile, religious scholars will have to put light on the rights and dignity of women in the society and ameliorate the traditional customs of people. In other words, the restrictive traditions which are contrary to national law and religious tenets must be amended. Indeed, there are many baseless traditions which override religious values and need amendment. Moreover, the government will have to spread awareness in rural areas so that people reconcile their mindset with law.
Similarly, the public should listen to the call of their conscience and respect the rights and dignity of women for being human and view them from the humane perspective. It is understandable that women, similar to men, are entitled to live a peaceful life and exercise their rights and freedoms and play their role in social, cultural, political and economic activities. Downplaying the role of women in a society or discriminating them on the basis of their gender will deal a strong blow to the country’s culture and development. Hence, all have to practice upon legal principles, religious tenets and ethical code in their approach towards women.