Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Including Mother’s Name on ID – A Boost for Women’s Rights

Afghans, mainly women, have celebrated on social media as the Afghan cabinet’s legal committee headed by second vice president Sarwar Danish said a proposal to amend the census law to include the mother’s name on the national identity card had been approved in a committee meeting. The amendment still requires parliamentary approval and signing into law by the president.
Afghan women and rights activists believe that the inclusion of mother’s name on the identity card is a step forward towards defending women’s identity. Earlier, there was a hashtag campaign underway on social media, #WhereIsMyName? It sought to defend women’s identity. It is seen as a small boost for women’s rights at the time that peace talks with the Taliban are about to start soon in the Qatari capital of Doha. The rights and freedoms of women will be a highly controversial issue at the table as the Taliban still practice upon parochial mindset and view women through a misogynistic lens.
Afghan women suffered painfully under the Taliban regime. In 2001, Laura Bush in a radio address condemned the Taliban’s brutality to women. In areas they controlled the Taliban issued edicts which forbade women from being educated; girls were forced to leave schools and colleges. Those who wished to leave their home to go shopping had to be accompanied by a male relative, and were required to wear the burqa. Those who appeared to disobey were publicly beaten. The religious radicals routinely carried out inhumane abuse on women. Employment for women was restricted to the medical sector, because male medical personnel were not allowed to treat women and girls. One result of the banning of employment of women by the Taliban was the closing down in places like Kabul of primary schools not only for girls but for boys, because almost all the teachers there were women. Taliban restrictions became more severe after they took control of the capital. In February 1998, religious police forced all women off the streets of Kabul, and issued new regulations ordering people to blacken their windows, so that women would not be visible from the outside.
A woman who lived in Kabul at the time of Taliban is cited as saying, “Because of the Taliban, Afghanistan has become a jail for women. We haven’t got any human rights. We haven’t the right to go outside, to go to work, to look after our children”. 
I believe that she has stated the tips of the iceberg. The challenges were much larger. For instance, there were many widowed women who, on the one hand, had no bread-winner for their children, but on the other hand they were not allowed to go out to work or just to beg in the streets. The women who came out without a close male member of their families were beaten severely.
In addition, several Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders ran a network of human trafficking, abducting women and selling them into sex slavery in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban often argued that the brutal restrictions they placed on women were actually a way of revering and protecting the opposite sex. The behavior of the Taliban during the five years they expanded their rule in Afghanistan made a mockery of that claim.
Despite democratic constitution, which treats men and women as equal, traditional culture holds strong sway in tribal areas. Women are subjugated to their spouses, brothers, fathers, etc. Unveiling their faces is considered a serious disdain for their families. That is to say, Taliban-styled tradition prevails in tribal areas. On the other hand, women fall victim to rape in cities, where mostly open-minded individuals reside. Moreover, scores of girls get married under the age of 18.
Women are not supposed to be the victim of discrimination. In addition to saying that all human beings are born free and equal, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states in article 2, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status….”
Many Afghan women do not use their real names on social media or never post their real photos for two reasons: First, posting their photos on social media is not deemed appropriate for women by traditional customs and they will be considered brazen. Hence, they fear to be labelled by their neighbors or prevented by their families. Second, there are people who seek to have contact with them despite their reluctance, which is a flagrant violation of their freedom. In case of refusal, they will be threatened or immoral videos and pictures will be sent to them.
It is hoped Afghans change their mindset towards women and respect their rights and freedoms.