Women are increasingly under attack in Afghanistan as far as women’s rights are concerned. The Taliban overthrew the afghan government in 1996, and ruled from 1996-2001, and during that time; strict restrictions had been executed on women. Women and girls were not allowed to work or receive education. There was an exception to the rule if a woman was widowed, and had no other source of income, and then she could work. Women could not go outside, unless they were covered in a head to toe “burqua,” which is their traditional attire, and a male relative had to accompany them.
The burqua only has a small mesh opening over the eyes allowing limited vision, and many of the women had been injured due to poor visibility. If a woman showed a bit of her ankle or had noisy shoes, she would be beaten. In addition, women had no voice, so they are were not allowed to speak in public. From puberty until death, women could only speak to men who were relatives. Once “The War on Terrorism” began, it gave the Afghan and Iraqi women hope to reform their nation and improve the social situation.
The Taliban were chased from the country by U. S. military forces in 2001, and there have been some improvements in women’s rights concerning education and employment although many still suffer the hardships they did before the war. Most improvements have happened in major cites of Afghanistan such as Kabul, leaving rural areas with very much change at all. The police still enforce the wearing of the “burqua” by the women, but in Kabul, many professional women no longer wear the burqua, but many still do. According to a July 2003 Human Rights Watch report, the Southeast Afghanistan army and police practice of kidnapping, robbing and raping is so prevalent that women and girls are staying home as a means of protection. The fear of assault and political intimidation prevents the women and girls from gaining an education, employment and political influence. ” (National Organization for Women, 2008) There is no abiding law and order in Afghanistan by the police or local authorities. The NATO forces do not have enough manpower to offer protection.
However, armed fathers, husbands and brothers do all they can to protect the women. Afghanistan is also known for child brides and marrying off girls as young as eleven to men in their thirties and even older. “True, women hold 27 percent of the seats in the National Assembly and one-sixth of the seats in the Upper House. But most Afghan women remain illiterate, impoverished and vulnerable to political and criminal violence. Only 15 percent of Afghan woman can read. The United Nations has described Afghan women as being “among the worst-off in the world. On average, women in Afghanistan die at least 20 years younger than women elsewhere. ”(Women in Afghanistan, 2006) In Herat, which is Afghanistan’s second largest city, the government has given women and girls limited educational and employment opportunities. Women groups have been censored, and derailed from the governments’ administration. It is bad enough that the government is threatening women’s rights, but society has imposed other means by handing out pamphlets in communities encouraging parents not to send their daughters to school, and many of the girls schools have been firebombed and burned.
Some girls have been poisoned to death for going to school. Parents that often deny education for their daughters, force their young girls into marriage. Girls are forced into marriage as young as eight years old. Other restrictions that Afghan women face as a violation of women’s rights is a ban on outside employment, strict dress code for women, very limited medical care, threats of violence if seen without a husband, father or male relative and rejection of humanitarian aid.
Women are denied any share of humanitarian aid delivered to their country under the assumption that the men will take care of the women. Before the Taliban takeover in 1996, the Afghanistan women were scientist, members of parliament, cabinet members, and university professors. They led corporations, non-profit organizations and local communities. Many of these women are more than qualified to lead Afghanistan back to democracy. In November 2001, shockingly, Afghan women marched for their rights in Kabul. For the first time in more than six years, Afghan women rallied for their rights.
Hillary Clinton established a campaign for women in Afghanistan and in 1999; she spoke out on their behalf about the abuse and the wearing of the burqua of the women in Afghanistan. Over the years, some schools have reopened in Afghanistan allowing boys and girls to attend. Several women have also been appointed or elected to important political roles. In the past five years, in the southern city of Kandahar at least five thousand women have graduated from special literacy courses, where they learned how to read and write and were taught skills such as dressmaking or computer knowledge.
There is a woman minister of public health, a woman minister of women’s affairs and a woman heading the human rights commission. Women are also now able to travel more freely, and they have returned to work. Although progress is being made, there is still much more turmoil. “Registered cases of physical violence against women and girls in Afghanistan have increased by about 40 percent since March 2007. Some women seek escape by self-immolation, resulting in death or disfigurement.
Last year, at least 30 women committed suicide in the western Farah Province alone, most of them by setting themselves on fire, according to Afghan media reports. ” (Afghanistan Online, 2008) The Afghanistan government announced a plan to give nearly one third of jobs to women by 2012. I hope that this will lead to greater things, and that the women’s rights of Afghanistan will improve and that every woman will be included throughout the country, and they can move forward.