Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

No End to Gender Discrimination


No End to Gender Discrimination

Despite democratic system, the violation of women’s rights and dignity is widespread in Afghanistan. Women have been left at the mercy of cultural restrictions and traditional mindset. The cycle of violence against women does not appear to stop, mainly in tribal belts. As a result, Afghan women suffer severely in some ways or the other.
Misogynistic view holds strong sway in traditional culture of Afghanistan, especially in the Taliban-dominated areas where women are treated as pariahs. The main causes of violence against women lie in the traditional perception on women in Afghanistan.
There are mainly three attitudes towards women in Afghan society:
Misogynistic view: That considers women inferior to men and their freedoms are curtailed and their rights and dignity are trampled upon, particularly in the tribal belts where tribal code of conduct prevails. In tribal areas, tradition outweighs both religious tenets and constitutional principles. That is to say, the decisions of tribal elders are highly respected by the locals. According to recent reports, seven women have been flogged in a desert court in, an act contrary to against religious and legal principles, in Takhar province. Democratic attitude: According to democratic perspective, men and women are equal and one must not be discriminated on the basis of their gender. There is no room for inhuman treatment, discrimination or degradation of men or women in democratic principles. Women should be able to exercise their rights and freedoms in a violence-free society.
The constitution which was approved in the post-Taliban Afghanistan is also based on democratic principles and considers equal rights for men and women. Article 22 states, “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.” The constitution also recognizes the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which consider men and women equal. The UDHR states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It adds that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Liberal attitude:  Based on this view, women should be liberated not only from cultural restrictions but also from religious principles and moral standard. In other words, there is no limitation for women’s freedoms in liberal school of thought. In terms of women’s rights and liberty, religious or moral values are disregarded in liberal mindset.
To view the first attitude towards women, it is against both constitution and religious tenets. Tribal council, which is rife in Afghanistan, has no legitimacy at all and tribal elders are not entitled to conduct desert court. This attitude stems from radical interpretation of religious tenets and Taliban-like mindset.
The third view is not supported by religious or constitutional principles, either. Considering limitless freedoms for women or liberating them from religious or moral values are against religious tenets and social norms in Afghanistan. Indeed, there should be no barriers before exercising rights and freedoms, but it does not necessarily mean that there is no boundary. A boundless freedom is supported neither in national laws nor in international instruments.
Democratic attitude towards women is widely accepted around the world. Afghanistan’s Constitution is also based on democratic principles with taking Islamic tenets into consideration. The rights and dignity of women should be respected and protected. Similar to men, women must be able to play their social, cultural, economic, and political role in the society without being discriminated on the basis of their gender.
Although Afghan women have played a great role in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, they have faced a myriad of challenges in social and political life. The nascent democracy could not panacea their chronic problem – i.e. cultural restrictions, discrimination, and violence. The Taliban are still posing threat to women’s life not only through carrying out terrorist attacks but also conducting desert court. In short, the Taliban are most likely to have a key role in conducting desert court. Hence, the ongoing violence against women is a strong blow to democracy.
The violation of women’s rights is highly outrageous and it should come to an end. To reduce violence against women, religious scholars shall enlighten women’s rights and dignity and on the basis of the true spirit of religion and denounce the misogynistic rehearsals and cultural restrictions exerted against them. They have to illustrate that cultural taboos must not outshine religious principles especially in terms of women’s rights and freedoms. So, a campaign against ongoing violence by religious scholars and institutions will be highly productive.

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

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