Women soon to be extinct!
There are some emblematic Afghan reasons behind this appalling condition of the women. After being in war for more than 3 decades, Afghanistan is now literally in pieces. The truth goes implicit that women and children are the ones affected callously by the war-lords brutality. It is true that violence exists even after the conflict is over. The remnant of war has a tough effect on women’s state and can permanently destabilise their morale. Undergoing the regime of Taliban, the situation of human rights in Afghanistan is dreadful and especially women have been targeted the most in all these years. Additionally the imprudent customs doesn’t let the change happen so easily.
Taliban and women
Taliban is one of the perilous Islamic fundamentalist groups in world. Their origin was not an accident but a much systematized one. Foreign powers made bad use of the conflict situation in Afghanistan and their subversive activities gave birth to the notorious Taliban. Since their inception they have targeted women, which has completely destroyed the concept of gender parity in Afghanistan. During Taliban rule in Afghanistan women had entirely lost their freedom and were restricted only to the activities concerning their house. Women had no economic, social or intellectual independence. Girls were removed from schools and women were not let to be treated by male doctors (the sad part is that, access to female physicians was limited to cities and there were only a countable number of women in the field). Taliban had banned music and television (even for men), imposed prohibition on women from getting out of the house without a male relative called ‘mahram’ and showing skin (because of this rule, even today one can observe women here wearing long blue coloured burqas with opening only for eyes and not-so-surprisingly that opening too is netted!). It’s equally true that women were not let to use cosmetics. If a woman painted her nails, those nails would be chopped off!
The extreme and erroneous interpretation of Islam by Taliban has made way for the use of women as barter. They claimed that a woman is the possession of a man and he can use her in times of crisis or according to his needs. They also gave rights to men to control or punish women as it deemed right to their senses. One of their most heinous practices includes the public stoning or shooting of a woman who commits adultery. Very recently the media reported that a woman in Parwan province towards the north of Kabul (just 100 kms away) was publically shot down for her alleged involvement in adultery. There were over 100 men sadistically cheering the Taliban executor and praising the lord ‘Allah-O-Akbar’. This grim incident in enough to prove that Government here is not accountable and very much is in the hands of Taliban.
What is the Government doing?
One of imperative reasons behind my visit to Kabul was to evaluate the Governmental policies and its attitude towards women. The Karzai Government came to power after the fall of Taliban. Dr. Karzai is the first ever elected President of Afghanistan. People had hundreds of hopes on the newly elected Government. Shattered by war and internal conflicts people wanted a positive change in their lives. Women thought at least now they would be able to live with dignity. With such expectations and pressure from International Community the Afghan Parliament adopted a new Constitution on January 4th, 2004. Many hailed it as the most liberal Constitution in a Muslim nation and it actually has some provisions which are very promising. For example, Article 22 states that, “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, Article 24 says, “Liberty is the natural right of human beings. This right has no limits unless affecting other freedoms as well as the public interest, which shall be regulated by law. Liberty and human dignity are inviolable. The state shall respect and protect liberty as well as human dignity”. It is as well very important to note that the Constitution provides reservation to women in Parliament vide Article 83 where it is given that, “On average, at least two females shall be the elected members of the House of People from each province”.
Besides, the Government has initiated several projects and ratified Laws through various Ministries exclusively for women empowerment, like, the historic Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW law) the most important legal step taken so far by the Government to criminalize acts of violence against women and bring perpetrators to justice, National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) for mainstreaming the gender priority programs and Governments commitment to International Conventions on women, Afghanistan National Development Strategy, The Kabul Conference, The Ministry of Justice’s National Justice Sector Strategy which promotes legal awareness among women, men and children to empower them to obtain access to justice, The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development’s AREDP Program Development Objective (PDO) are among the many.
Well, there are various initiatives and policies, then why majority of women here are still living in the coop of exploitation? As I said before the typical social setting makes it impossible to bring any sort of change. The Afghan society is so locked up in its past that people are very apprehensive and often respond negatively to change. Only a handful of women in cities are able to access education and are relatively enjoying freedom like working outside their house and travelling abroad. If the situation doesn’t change, women will soon become extinct from Afghan society.
Reasons behind the disappointing implementation of policies are understandable. Continuous insurgency, irresponsible police force and corruption are ruling the country. The easy availability of weapons to common people has given them the confidence that police or court cannot control them and thus they live in their own ways and often don’t care for Law and order. The misuse or abuse of the customs for personal gratification has led to the deterioration of women’s status. The influence of terrorist groups is so high in some regions of Afghanistan that no law or policy can be implemented without ousting those groups. In addition to these, poverty, illiteracy acts as the impediments in country’s progress.
I believe the only ways to improve the status of women is through education (to men as well) and creation of accountable judicial institutions through which they can have easy access to justice.