“Although it feels like the world has abandoned Afghan women, it has not. … We need your support.” – Mahbouba Seraj, Afghan women’s rights activist, to the United Nations Security Council, January 26, 2022
On International Women’s Day, we must remember Afghanistan and reflect on what the situation of women’s rights there means for the fight for gender equality around the world.
The Taliban were notorious for violating women’s rights when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. So when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan on August 15 last year, women’s rights advocates Afghan women were deeply skeptical of the difference between the new rulers and the Taliban who previously controlled the country, despite their promises to respect women’s rights.
Activists have warned that the Taliban will crack down hard on women and girls again and the oppression will intensify over time.
They were right.
In less than seven months since taking power, the Taliban have:
- closed most secondary schools for girls;
- has created barriers for women and girls pursuing higher education;
- prohibits women from most paid employment;
- abolished the Ministry of Women’s Affairs;
- restricting the movement of women, including preventing them from leaving the country alone;
- dismantled the Afghan system that provided protection against gender-based violence;
- created barriers to women’s and girls’ access to health care;
- beaten and abducted women’s rights protesters;
- female journalists silenced;
- women’s sports prohibited; and
- appointed an all-male administration.
Yet the world’s response has been muted. Several countries proudly claim a “feminist foreign policy”. But the international response to these developments has lacked urgency, and there are few signs of an effective coordinated plan to protect the rights of Afghan women and girls. On the contrary, governments have flattered the Taliban by sending all-male delegations to meet them.
Afghanistan is not the only country where women’s rights are under attack on International Women’s Day. But the speed and scale of the erasure of women’s rights in Afghanistan is a warning to women everywhere about how fragile progress towards equality is, how quickly it can disappear, and how few people support it. will defend. We all need to stand in solidarity with Afghan women; their fight is a fight for women’s rights everywhere.