Friday August 12, 2022

Erasing women

By Editorial Board
May 10, 2022

Once again, the Taliban in Afghanistan have not shown any willingness to adhere to basic human rights or respect the rights of the women in their country. A recent decree by the Taliban regime contains an order from supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada that all women should wear the chadori – a head-to-toe cloak – “because it commands respect and is a traditional outfit for women in Afghanistan”. Evidently, the Taliban do not appear to have learnt much since their last assumption of power in the 1990s. Their policies are stuck in time, especially how they allow women to move around, if at all. These new restrictions seem even harsher than those that existed during the previous regime. The Taliban government appears to be in a hurry to erase all footprints of women in society, apart from their domestic chores. Despite the war and the violence, the new generation or urban Afghan women had for the past 20 years seen relative freedom. Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, though the war against foreign powers has ended, the bodies of Afghan women are once again sites of ideological and cultural contestation – this time in ways that will only further invisibilize them.

We have already seen how Afghan girls have been from attending secondary schools and colleges, what to talk of universities. And, while in any case most women in Afghanistan are adequately covered up, that is still not enough for the Taliban regime – which would prefer them in a complete veil. There has been some pushback from young women in the country but that only comes with the possibility of dire consequences.

Afghan people – especially women have suffered a lot during the past four decades. Such orders by the Taliban will have a devastating impact on Afghan society. The Taliban’s desire to just wish away all women needs to be countered. A whole gender cannot be erased from public life. The list of grievances against the Taliban government is increasing and keeping in view the precarious economic condition the country finds itself in, the new rulers in Afghanistan must reconsider their policies. The warnings from the West that frozen Afghan accounts would only be released to the Taliban government if women are protected and provided education appears to have been more or less ignored. The international community must handle this with tact. This includes Pakistan, whose last government had openly welcomed the Taliban takeover. Being sensitive to cultural norms does not translate into condoning violations of basic rights. While the world must put aside cultural or political differences with the Taliban for the sake of common people in Afghanistan and offer cooperation at least through the UN, there is also a need to ensure that some bare minimum human rights conditions are also adhered to by the Taliban.