Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

The Rights and Liberty of Afghan Women

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The Rights and Liberty of Afghan Women

Women’s freedom and dignity have been debated widely in Afghanistan, but still remain a challenging issue. Women are supposed to live a free and honorable life. A society should respect women and their rights, which are highly valued by religion. Religious tenets, moral standards and social norms of a society suggest women to live in a certain frame and there is no absolute freedom. These are all the common perspective about women in Afghan society.
On the other hand, there are many mysteries about women’s rights and violence against women is widespread in the religious community of Afghanistan. For instance, everyone seeks to impose their own understandings of hijab and Islamic clothing on women and interpret their rights and freedoms based on their personal mentality. In our society, the woman who is bound to the shackles of traditions and cultural restrictions will be considered honorable. Their rights and dignity are defined by their parents or spouses without reference to law or religious tenets. Women are treated harshly in case of not abiding by the rules set by the male members of their families.
Women suffer from domestic and social violence in Afghan society. They fear of walking alone on a street on a bright day although wearing Islamic hijab. The men, who claim virtue, disturb women in one way or another. Since women are treated as an inferior creature, they have lost their confidence and peace of mind in social life. To put it succinctly, the vacuum of religious tenets and spiritual values is felt deeply in the life of people.
Constitutionally, there is no distinction or discrimination between men and women on the basis of their gender and the rights and dignity of both will have to be held in respect. Both men and women are born free and with natural and inalienable rights. Those who seek to impose traditional restrictions on women and force their own understanding of their rights on them, will curtail their freedom, which is against the Constitution.
Emphasizing on the role of religion and cultural values on the one hand, and discriminating women in individual and collective life on the other hand, reflect two contradicting facts.  First, women have to be modest and walk within the restricted frame of traditions introduced either by the society or an individual. Second, despite their modesty, women are treated unfairly and the graph of violence against them is high.
In the hot debate on women’s rights, the men in our society have not defined their own attitude towards them. They seek to set rule for women’s clothing, walking, fashion, etc. but their treatment is neither according to religion nor constitutional law.
Take, for example, Chinese women. The rights and freedoms of Chinese women are respected truly. Women in China feel no fear to walk alone at midnight on a street without proper dressing, since no one intends to disturb them. Their dressing and walking are none of others’ business. They have the right to select their dresses and way of dressing according to their personal taste. Women never feel themselves inferior to men. In brief, women in China exercise their rights and liberty without cultural barriers or traditional structure. They enjoy equal rights and freedoms with men and violence against women has no room in Chinese society. Women live a peaceful and respected life without those all mentioned restrictions. Both the state and nation are respecting the rights of women the same as men. There is no iota of distinction between men and women in individual and social life.
In Afghanistan’s Constitution, there is no discrimination between the two sexes as well, as it is said 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.” Similarly, the clergy preach to people to respect the rights of women and treat them kindly. They introduce the kind treatment of our religious leaders as a role model.
The problem is that the ideal rights and liberty of women are in conflict with realistic life. First we construe women’s rights based on our own knowledge and taste. Second, we never intend to put an end to all those traditional shackles. Third, we deem women inferior to men and treat them with disdain and humiliation. So, we have to adjust our view about women’s rights and liberty based on our religious tenets and constitutional law. Otherwise, we violate both the tenets and laws. In such a case, the cycle of violence against women will never stop.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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